STUDIES ON PROVERBS
Miscellaneous proverbs continued. Several verses have at least a potential application to law suits and courtroom scenes, (vv. 5, 13, 16-18, 21). However, these may also have application to everyday matters. Fools and wise men continue to be contrasted, and the potential evil of the tongue is stressed.
Proverbs 18:1 “Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.” The desire of the fool is not to gain wisdom for the sake of being more righteous and just, but rather is through a proud desire to exalt self by being thought wiser than others, and so. Looked up to as above the generality of men. In his own mind, the fool separates himself from others, as being superior to them. All his efforts to gain wisdom with such a attitude, is simply an endeavor to glorify himself. “All heresy has more or less originated in the self-conceit which leads men to separate themselves from the congregation of the Lord (Ezek. 14:7; Hosea 9:10; Heb. 10:25),” [Faussett]. Not all separation is evil; sometimes circumstances demand it, (2 Cor. 6:14-18).
Proverbs 18:2 “A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.” This confirms what has just been said. A defective heart reveals its true nature by what it hates as well as by what it loves. A fool is willing to use wisdom and understanding to further his own proud desires, but has no real delight in it simply for its own sake. Most unsaved people have a utilitarian view of religion; i.e., that it is only useful for what you can get out of it, and do not realize that the primary purpose of all real religion is to honor and glorify God. The pursuit of understanding ought to be for the sole purpose of being better fitted to do God’s will.
Proverbs 18:3 “When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.” “Ignominy” is more commonly rendered “shame” so that this teaches that wickedness produces contempt and shame results in reproach. It is not stated whether this is on the part of men, who sometimes take a stand for righteousness and against evil men, or whether on God’s part, who always is against wickedness and shameful things. “This may include a double sense: 1. Wicked people are scornful people, and put contempt upon others… 2. Wicked people are shameful people, and bring contempt upon themselves, for God has said that those who despise him shall be lightly esteemed,” [M. Henry]. The wicked hold others in contempt, both as to their person, and as to their rights, but God’s law of sowing and reaping has never been repealed, and so they shall reap of their contempt.
Proverbs 18:4 “The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the well-spring of wisdom as a flowing brook.” The truly wise man’s wisdom is not set forth for display, and so it flows silently but deeply, not as the roaring cataract (waterfall), which is often relatively shallow. The wicked desires wisdom only for the noise that he can make with it to attract attention to himself. He desires it to be only for himself and his use, but the righteous man desires wisdom that he may share it with others, as is suggested by “flowing brook.” A brook cannot continually flow unless it has a spring to feed it. This suggests the need for a heart well endowed with heavenly wisdom, for who can teach truth if he has not received it himself. Paul spoke what he knew to be true, (1 Cor. 15:3).
Proverbs 18:5 “It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.” How often people judge by outward appearance, which is condemned by the Lord, (Deut. 1:16; Prov. 24:23; John 7:24; 8:15; James 2:1-9). “This justly condemned those who, being employed in the administration of justice, pervert judgment, conning at men’s crimes because of their dignity or wealth. The merits of the cause must be regarded, not the person,” [M. Henry]. Showing respect of persons in judgment has always been wrong, but rich and influential men often bribe their way out of trouble, but God condemns this and warns of judgment to come. In some areas men have a right to show respect of persons—every man does when he chooses a wife, for he does not offer to marry all who desire it. Even God shows respect of persons in some areas, (Gen. 4:4; Ex. 2:25; Lev. 26:9; Ps. 138:6, etc.) The phrase “God is no respecter of persons” always refers to a judgment context. In grace, He always respects persons.
Proverbs 18:6 “A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.” These two things often go together—contentiousness and chastisement—for the fool’s very contentiousness is deserving of punishment since it serves no good purpose but is only done in an attempt to exalt his ego. There is much difference in contending for truth, which involves standing firm in it when others would compromise or contradict it, and merely being contentious, which involves an attempt to establish one’s own position regardless of the truth. Contention is generally about some minor, insignificant thing that involves no fundamental Scriptural principle. It is often the party cry to divide a church and draw off disciples to the author of the contention.
Proverbs 18:7 “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of this soul.” Very few people realize the destructiveness of the mouth; it destroys truth, reputations and lives, and even destroys the one who speaks, (Matthew 12:36-37), for everyone must answer for the words of his mouth. From this text it is clear that in the day of judgment there is going to be a playback for all to hear of all that the unsaved has ever said, and God’s great audio recorder makes no mistakes, and the only thing that will erase those words is the redeeming blood of Christ. Every evil word that one speaks binds him tighter in sin.
Proverbs 18:8 “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” Here is the other side of the matter: not only is a fool’s mouth destructive of his own soul, but it also wounds others as well, against whom he speaks. Thus there is a three-fold evil done by the unrestrained mouth: (1) It destroys the speaker. (2) It wounds the one spoken against. (3) It harms the listener, for it creates suspicion, distrust and dislike in him for the one spoken against. The bad thing about talebearers is that they are seldom satisfied with the tale they carry, but must continually revise it and add to it, and almost always they worsen it as they do so. “Inner most parts” probably refers to the heart, the part most wounded by the tales that are spread about a person.
Proverbs 18:9 “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.” This is tied to verse 8 by the word “also” since talebearers are generally also slothful persons. A diligent worker seldom has time to go about spreading rumors. The slothful and the waster are very much alike. “Those are justly branded as fools who are wasters of their estates, who live above what they have. Idleness is no better… One scatters what he has, the other lets it run through his fingers,” [M. Henry]. Most of the reference to the slothful are in Proverbs: 12:24, 27; 15:19; 18:9; 19:15, 24; 21:25; 22:13; 26:14, 14, 15. All that any person has is from the Lord and to be wasteful is to be scornful of His gifts.
Proverbs 18:10 “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” The “name of the Lord” is of frequent occurrence in the Bible, and refers to what the Lord is, as manifested in His names. Compound names often are very suggestive, such as Jehovah-Jireh, “The Lord will provide,” (Gen. 22:7-14); Jehovah-tsidkenu, “The Lord our righteousness”, (Jer. 23:6; 33:16), etc. In our lesson, the thought is, that all that the Lord is, is for our defense. He is all-sufficient for our shelter and defense, (Isa. 26:1). Anciently towers on city walls were the strongest points of defense and were often the last points taken in battle.
Proverbs 18:11 “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.” Wealth is not really much of a defense, but in the conceit of man it is thought to be, for to many, wealth is their god, which they trust in rather than in God, (1 Tim. 6:17). The folly of trusting in material things is to be seen in that: (1) They can be taken away by robbery, inflation, etc. (2) They cannot purchase the most needed things—salvation, peace of mind, life, etc. (3) The owner of them may be taken away from them by death. Trust in God guarantees all of the needed things in life, and he who trusts in God cannot be defrauded of these good things. He who trusts in earthly things does not realize that these are all soon to pass away, (1 John 2:15-17), and the truster in them will be destitute.
Proverbs 18:12 “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honor is humility.” (Prov. 16:18). “Pride is the presage of ruin, and ruin will at last be the punishment of pride. Humility is the presage of honor, and honor shall at length be the reward of humility,” [M. Henry]. While in good health and unthreatened by danger, man is proudly self-sufficient and thinks he is “captain of his soul and master of his fate”, and so it is often necessary for him to be humbled by tragedy so that he can see himself as he truly is. No one is honored by God until he has first humbled himself; note this order in 1 Peter 5:5-6. There is room for but one king, both in heaven and in the human heart, and that one must be God; man must abdicate the throne of his heart before he can be saved and have honor from God. Have you submitted wholly to King Jesus?
Proverbs 18:13 “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” “Hearth” means “understandeth”, as in Deuteronomy 28:49 where the same Hebrew word is used. Too many people want to refute the view of others even before they understand what it is. They self-righteously assume themselves to be the standards of truth, and others to be automatically wrong. Often these try to dominate the conversation so that the others cannot even explain what they mean. To every seeming opponent, we owe by Christian courtesy, a proper understanding of his views before we condemn them. Often apparent disagreements are due more to a difference in terminology than in theology. Pride and self-importance often is at the root of such arguments, and these, being folly, naturally lead to shame.
Proverbs 18:14 “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” “It is the office of the spirit, or mind, to govern the body, but not that of the body to govern the mind: therefore, when the body is under ‘infirmity,’ ‘the spirit sustains’ it: but if the spirit be afflicted, there is nothing which can bear it up (Prov. 15:13),” [Faussett]. This is a general rule. But read in connection with verse 13, it is also true that when the spirit in a man has not been reborn, that unregenerate spirit will sustain, i.e., will maintain and justify, his infirmity of pride and self-importance, and no natural man can bear the wounding of his proud spirit that is necessary to humble it and bring it to repentance; it takes an act of Divine grace to accomplish this. Such is the depravity of the human spirit that so far from voluntarily humbling itself, it will do all in its power to defend its natural pride and vanity.
Proverbs 18:15 “The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.” “Heart” involves the understanding, the emotions and the will, and there has to be a concerted seeking by all these before any permanent spiritual knowledge is attained. The ear alone may seek for knowledge, but there will not be much real knowledge gained unless the heart is in search for it, (Prov. 17:16). The ear is but the outer receptacle for truth, and holds very little of it unless the heart is also submissive to the truth and desirous of it for its own sake, and receives what comes into the ear.
Proverbs 18:16 “A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.” This has to do with the giving of bribes, and it pictures the way of the world, not the way that things ought to be. Because of the innate selfishness of man, most people are always open to any profit they can get, and so bribes are easy ways to gain access to great men. “See how corrupt the world is when men’s gifts will do that for them which their merits will not do, though ever so great,” [M. Henry]. Herein is another evidence of man’s idolatrous worship of material possessions: they are considered of greater value than truth and righteousness else gifts would not gain men an entrance where these will not.
Proverbs 18:17 “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him.” There are always two sides to every story, and though the first man who tells a matter may make his story sound so very plausible and just, yet the judge must not give sentence until the other party has had opportunity to tell his side and to cross-examine the first party. Man is a notorious twister of facts when trying to establish his own case, and the opponent is equally notorious in trying to demolish the facts and to establish his position, so that it takes a third, impartial party to view the matter objectively, but even the judge can err if he is rash and precipitate in pronouncing judgment before all the facts are considered. Sometimes a gift is employed, (v. 16), to obtain such a decision.
Proverbs 18:18 “The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.” See notes on Proverbs 16:33. To those who believe that the whole disposing of the lot is of the Lord, it is a cessation of all contention, for when the lot is cast, it is assumed that the Lord has spoken and that His will is manifest. Not many people today believe in and use the lot to determine matters since so few actually believe that God takes an active interest in, and directs, the affairs of His people. Most people would believe that the decision of the lot was only an “accident”, or blind chance. But even so important a matter as choosing an apostle was done by lot in Acts 1:26. This was a form of voting, yet it still involved the use of lots, and was done in dependence upon God’s guidance. Ordinarily, determination by lots should not be resorted to, if the decision can be arrived at in other ways.
Proverbs 18:19 “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.” The nearer the relationship is, the harder it is to heal it once it has been disrupted. Because one expects something better from one that is related, so an offence is all the more bitter to the offended one. Sadly sometimes family disputes have been bitterly carried to the grave, with profit to none and hurt to all. This only emphasizes, however, how careful we all ought to be lest we offend. And it must be remembered that there is a closer relationship between spiritual than natural brothers. Christians’ duty in this matter is made clear in 1 Corinthians 10:32.
Proverbs 18:20 “A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.” “Each one gets the fruit, whether good or bad, of his words, according as these are good or bad. Other fruits it is optional with us to eat or not; this fruit we must unavoidably eat (Prov. 13:2),” [Faussett]. “The belly is here put for the conscience, as chapter 20:27. The testimony of our consciences will be for us, or against us, according as we have or have not governed our tongues well,” [M. Henry]. The “increase” of the lips refers to excessive speaking in which there is always sin, (Prov. 10:19).
Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” There is the power of life in the right use of words, in that through the preaching of the gospel and witnessing of Jesus Christ, people may be brought to repentance and faith. Not only so, but speaking comforting words to God’s people is also a good use of the tongue, and God blesses all right uses of the tongue with rewards. But there are altogether too many people who delight in the misuse of the tongue—criticism, tale-bearing, gossiping, backbiting, lying, cursing, taking God’s name in vain, teaching falsehood, etc., and the tragedy of it all is, that few realize that there is both life and death in the spoken word, according to how one uses it. However one uses his tongue, he shall reap of his sowing.
Proverbs 18:22 “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord.” “Findeth” suggests a search, so that it is not a matter of just marrying the first willing one that comes along. Many insecure persons, afraid that “this is my last chance” marry the first person they can, and these are seldom good marriages. Christians are to marry “only in the Lord,” (1 Cor. 7:39), which means: (1) Only to another Christian. (2) Only as the Lord directs, for some Christians have personalities that clash, and so, they should not marry. (3) Only to those within the same denominational and doctrinal groups, for even when both are saved, if they have different beliefs, it will either cause hardships or involve compromise by one or both, and the truth generally is first to be compromised. A wife who is a wife indeed—an help, meet for him (appropriate to his needs, filling out what is lacking in him, as the word means) is truly a great gift from the Lord, (Prov. 19:14).
Proverbs 18:23 “The poor useth entreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.” Poverty generally causes one to feel helpless and in need of others’ aid, so that the poor must often beg for help. Conversely wealth tends to produce self-sufficiency, and the rich often are rude and unmannerly toward those whom they suppose to be less fortunate than they are. But riches can be taken away over night, and the rich may become destitute. Good manners are never out of place, nor are bad manners ever justified. Sadly, some people think that having money makes them sort of royalty, with a right to ignore the common courtesies of life. They degrade themselves more than anyone else by their ill manners.
Proverbs 18:24 “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Even the pagans recognized this principle, for Seneca said: “If you wish to be loved, love.” Friendship is not a one way street, nor is it a spectator sport. Too many want to be loved, made over, catered to, etc., but are unwilling to reciprocate. Both love and friendship, in order to survive, must be fed with the same. Two different words are used here for friend, the second being the stronger (often rendered “lover”) whereas the first is often rendered only neighbor. There may be close friends whose love is greater than blood kin, but the friend that sticketh closer than a brother finds fulfillment in the fullest sense only in Christ. do we reciprocate Christ’s love by serving Him, (1 John 4:19; John 14:15)?
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