Words to live by | Online journal of Marc Heriot

Archive for the ‘Proverbs’ Category

Proverbs 12:8 Two Trees

A person is praised according to their prudence, and one with a warped mind is despised. Proverbs‬ ‭12:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Or another translations says:

In proportion to his prudence is a man to be praised, but the perverse in heart shall be an object of contempt. Proverbs 12:8 Rotherham

This morning, does my source of life originate from my understanding or my spirit? What an odd question that seems completely unrelated to this proverb. But let me connect the dots…

There are two people. Both have something to offer. Yet once they have delivered their goods they receive entirely different responses. One receives praise. The other, contempt. In this verse, the word for prudence carries the meaning of wisdom, insight, and inward knowledge. Something that has been learned from life experiences, contemplation, prayer, and the Holy Spirit. We need wisdom for life and when someone offers me something that hits the spot and meets a need, I am deeply thankful. But what is the source? Someone who has opened his heart to tangible, actionable, real-world wisdom from God. The Father has hidden something and this one has found it, then shared his treasure with me. Is it odd that I shower this person with appreciation and esteem? Of course not!

The perverse, on the other hand, experience a different result: contempt. The Hebrew word for perverse carries the meaning of a warped mind. Literally to crook, meaning to do amiss, bow down, make crooked, commit iniquity, pervert, to do perversely. It refers to an inward disposition — a perverse heart. It comes from something that has been twisted, bent in a way it was never intended. But the real identification of the perverse comes from the contemptuous response of the hearers. It doesn’t sound right. In fact its repulsive. Not just bad, but very bad. And the natural response is to despise and distance.

Solomon is speaking of two trees which have very different fruit. So how does this happen?

Connecting to my Father and His river of life combined with the good DNA he’s placed within me at my new birth produces good in me. So what happened to the other tree?

As I consider this I am feeling an empathy for the one whose life has taken him sideways or backwards. Like so many things, you may trace its origin back to the Garden. The temptation that the serpent offered to Eve stands in contrast to what the Father offered. Satan offered the hidden and secret that were off limits, claiming enlightenment if we only grasped it for ourselves. Yahweh offered life and peace, based in trust and obedience When coercing her to eat the forbidden fruit he said, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.” But what happened when Adam and Eve took the bait? They disconnected from the source of light and life. The very wisdom and insight they were promised (and had) was snatched from them. Yes, they now knew good and evil — God is good and Satan is definitely evil. But they were beguiled. They lost the connection to the life-giver. It’s like the internet signal was taken out or the power lines were cut. It’s dark and quiet.

From that day forward the mind of man was darkened. Is it any wonder that there are so many religions? So many wildly different views on a topic? Uncountable unstable and deranged people whose minds are twisted and warped? As I am reading my own words, I realize I must process them with my mind. Yet I’m fully aware that my mind is not the source of life, the Spirit is. My mind is only a tool and may not be trusted in and of itself. “Pure science” offers this temptation — offering answers to all of life’s questions — if we only have enough data and unbiased observers interpreting the data. Yet every person alive has walked in the darkness which originated from our first father Adam. And depending on the influences in our lives to which we have been exposed (completely outside of our control, by the way) we each have different degrees of alignment to both light and dark. Yet how do I personally regain the true goodness and prudence (using Solomon’s word) that God intended from the beginning? It is through an intentional connection with the light source. A DNA transplant within me that happens at my new birth. And daily it’s a choice I must make to return to trust of my Father — the thing that was broken in the Garden. The intentional feeding at his table, drinking from his streams. His body. His blood. His life in me. My mind and understanding will surely be fruitful, but that’s not where my source originates. It comes from His Spirit.

It’s no wonder how far men have journeyed into warped and unhelpful thinking. We see it every day. Yet real beauty, transformation, wisdom, life-changing fruit, comes from being nourished at my Father’s sources.

There are two choices, two trees, and two results. Prudence or perversity. Praise or contempt. My mind or my spirit. Doubt or trust. As far as I’m concerned, my source of life will be his Spirit.

Proverbs 12:7 Longevity and appearances

The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand. Proverbs 12:7

I like how Rotherham translates this: Overthrown are the lawless and they are not…

It’s easy to read through the words about the lawless and think, “yeah, they get what’s coming to them” and move on. Yet for a lawless one to be overthrown means they are in a position that must be unseated. They are in power. It’s ironic that one who is lawless is in power — doesn’t the definition of being in power include subjugation and rule and law? Now it may not be a just law or fairly applied, but the fact is, they live a lie. What applies to others does not apply to them. Just because someone has authority and leadership today, doesn’t mean they are the picture of righteousness and goodness and that God has given them the place they have. We live in a fallen world and things are not always as they appear to be. Likewise, our adversary roams and romps for a season, he looks like “Lucifer” the shining one, but in reality he is “Diabolos” the one that is desperately accusing me every day. Although he’s had so many years to make his case against mankind, there will be a day that he and his kingdom are… no more.

Strongs Hebrew for overthrown means: to turn about or over; by implication, to change, overturn, or return. Whoever the wicked are, it’s like the Lord puts a shovel in the ground and turns the soil upside down. Whatever was growing is now buried. “Let’s start over and turn this earth under. Something new may grow in its place.”

The righteous do not always appear to be the picture of stability and longevity. We are not always the ones with the biggest house, or any house at all, the biggest portfolio of assets, or any material wealth at all, yet his words declared over me is that “I will stand.” The Hebrew word has a mixture of meaning and includes both taking a stand and enduring. The point being, I am here to stay. Contrasting the outward, the wicked looks at me an laughs! “But you do not look like you have any staying power. Who has the position, power, the advantage on earth now?” But the sons of the King have a promise, and it will not fail. I will stand. I will endure. I will be here when the boastful one is not. Mercy and justice will prevail, regardless of the outward appearances for the moment.

This proverb is simple, but profound. Things are not always as they appear, but the goodness of God will have the last say.

Proverbs 12:6 Words

The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, But the mouth of the upright will deliver them. Proverbs‬ ‭12:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Or, the words of the wicked are, “lie in wait for blood” as though it is instruction to others.

I understand that people become what they choose. If I choose wickedness and that which serves me, I become wicked. If I choose goodness and that which honors God and others, I become upright. People did not start out wicked. Man was created perfectly, yet our innocence didn’t last long. We were enticed by an adversary who is the real wicked one. He constantly looks for opportunities to hurt, steal and kill. At the very beginning, he lurked in the Garden of Eden waiting to snare Adam. Once he ensured spiritual death, he wasted no time in pursuing Adam’s children. Cain heard his voice and followed his urging. Abel fell victim to someone who listened to the wicked one. How did this all happen? Words. So who is upright? There are many good men, but since that original man’s turn toward sin, Jesus became the first to live, and die, without blame. And he is the one that delivers us — our advocate, daily giving us a route of escape. Paul says:

Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Romans‬ ‭8:34‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews‬ ‭7:25‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

When we were little many of us heard the saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Words, lobbed like a grenade with pin pulled, may not hurt my bones, but for a person who feels and relates to others, they can be devastating. I once worked with an English woman who was not a U.S. citizen, yet at election time she was enthusiastically encouraging others to vote. I asked, “Why are you doing this if you can’t vote?” She said, “If I can influence five people to vote how I would like them to, then I have done more than the person who casts a single ballot.” Words are powerful.

A word from my mouth is window into my heart. It’s difficult to hide what is there when I speak. The wicked wait for the weak, to prey upon, spoil, kill and discard. Add to that the kingdom principles encouraging me toward humility, being a servant of all, declaring “when I am weak I am strong,” and it’s easy to see that I have a target on my back. For those that want to serve themselves and take advantage of others — those out for blood — I am easy pickin’.

But the upright have the same access to words that the wicked do. Just as words kill, they also give life. Jesus said:

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. ‭‭John‬ ‭6:63‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Does a fight really solve any disagreement? What value does a physical victory have if the heart and soul are unconvinced? Sticks and stones may take dominance over me temporarily, but the true fight is where the heart is. And that’s exactly where my adversary lands his blows. Yes, he likes the supremacy of death when it’s time, but until then, he is fighting me in heaven, accusing me daily before God, with words. It’s an accusation about me, my choices, my character, my motivation and values. Yet my advocate steps in — knowing that I am a work in progress. Jesus know I am on the right trajectory — and with words, unfolds my defense and delivers me. This powerful drama goes on daily, out of sight.

I love how this drama plays out. I struggle with the ups and downs of challenge, fail, then victory, rinse, repeat. But at the end of the age this courtroom drama reaches a crescendo and my choices bear fruit and finally a conclusion. The adversary gets kicked out of the courtroom. My advocate and his words win the case.

And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭12:7-12‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

What was the war about? What allowed the adversary to have the many, many years access to God? What brought about the conclusion?

Me.

That sounds arrogant. But the words that had trapped me, waiting for my blood and my demise now have a response. The advocate, and his angels, have the final say.

Proverbs 12:5 Good plans

The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful. Proverbs 12:5 NIV

Plans, or thoughts, from Strongs also means: cunning work, curious work, imagination, invented, means, purpose, thought. There are times, and today is one of them, that I question my plans — the way that I am thinking or evaluating a situation. When I do this, I feel uncertainty. When I don’t, I feel confidence. Since feeling confidence is a good thing, should I stop questioning? Yet whose thought process is perfect? And which thought is the crumbling stone that part of my home is built upon (and I experience situations that make me feel as though I teeter)? I recognize that headstrong confidence is not the goal, but rather learning, knowing, being teachable, and being able to be corrected. These things have a higher value to me.

Then I read this proverb which declares that my plans or thoughts are just. The Hebrew indicates just or right in a legal sense — as pronounced by the law, or judge. They are headed in the right direction. For those plans that are not, my Father will address them. But the overwhelming bulk of them are built on honoring my God. Loving him first. Allowing my life to be exposed to his presence, his thought, his scrutiny, and his correction. Also, the people of God provide a good sounding board as well… not perfect, but good.

On the other hand, the counsel or advice (steerage with ropes) of the wicked is deceit. The goal they seek is the result, not the journey. There is higher value in manipulating the facts, the truth, the circumstances in order to achieve a “higher good.” And to one who has little regard for morals or my Father, “higher” is always a self-based, self-proceeding judgment about situational ethics and self-serving goodness — with a heavy emphasis on me.

There are two paths, righteous or wicked. There are two motivations, justice or deceit. Yes or no. Black or white. Good or bad. Not all situations are framed up this clearly, but in the end, I must make a choice — and I have. Now I trust that my plans are just, good, and guided by my Father.

Proverbs 12:4 The backstory of the Virtuous Woman

A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones. Proverbs‬ ‭12:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

or a more literal translation:

A virtuous [strong, worthy, capable] woman is the crown of her husband [owner], but a veritable decay in the bones is she that causes shame. Proverbs 12:4 Rotherham

Virtuous, noble, worthy — all deep and descriptive words of someone who has incredible character. Character is something built decision by decision, choice by choice. With a laser focus on something other than oneself.

Being male or female, husband or wife, owner or property is irrelevant. They are roles I am given. Yet the person I become is the differentiator. There are deep biases and differences that society, culture, and history has projected over gender roles, and this Proverb understandably reflects that. Yet, without going into the whys, if I am willing to work with Solomon’s frame of reference, there is something incredible to be understood in this proverb.

A husband and wife have become one. A unit. A team. One heart, mind, and flesh. With mutual respect that runs deep and honor that punctuates every interaction, the success of one is the success of the other. It takes two to succeed. Yet if the man is a failure, the woman is a failure. If he succeeds, she succeeds. They are together. Interwoven. Reflective of each other. If I desire to reflect only myself, my energy and motivation fall off very quickly. But if I determine to help another represent well, my motivation isn’t about me, it’s about serving another.

No matter how high up the food chain of power and authority I go, the higher I am, the more responsibility I have to serve. For reasons I know, and many I don’t, God has placed man as the lead in a husband and wife team. Positioning a woman underneath the leadership of her husband simply means that he has the weightier responsibility of self-sacrificing service to his family — if a distinction must be made. Of all leaders who have walked the earth, who has had more authority and power than Jesus? Yet, it is He that washed his disciples feet and modeled what it means to become a servant of all in his house.

I laugh and am completely taken with the way my God works. He is hidden and plays hide and seek with us often. For those who stop their frantic pace long enough to play along with him, he hides in things and places that we often would not look nor pay much attention. Man looks at the big, strong and powerful. Yet God may often be found in the small, frail and weak. The places we’d miss. Overlooked. Out of sight. Women will often take a position like this and at times don’t mind doing so. Let the man take the stage because the strength integral to him is his wife. And for those whose wife is a leader… vice versa. We’re talking about one who may be overlooked, dismissed, in the shadows — and yet is not offended by it.

So what’s the take-away?

Service, excellence, and virtue — these are traits that every one of God’s people may choose to excel within. They reflect the very blessing and benefit that He has heaped upon me. My wife, her empathy and thoughtfulness for others, her desire for my success, her meekness and littleness, her industriousness, her authenticity and transparency are everything that I want to embody toward my savior. She is my example. And somehow when I look at her, I see Jesus in the flesh. He is staring back at me. Jesus in my wife is daily a reminder to me of his faithfulness, intimacy, is desire is toward me. He blesses and loves me constantly. In response, I can hardly imagine anything better than to return to her selfless love — something I have a long ways to go before I’m there. But I will try.

There is not much need to discuss the woman who causes shame… I believe we all have plenty of examples of this. It’s easy to be self serving. Self-focused. Wanting to promote myself. A person who behaves badly toward her own flesh (her husband, employer, children, family) is doing so from a foundational position of shame, unworthiness, and ironically — feeling entitled. When she hurts her husband, she hurts herself. Solomon calls it “decay in his bones.” A disease from within. But show me how to help another succeed and this is where life is.

Proverbs 31 is coming where there are many verses that dives deeper on what it means to be a virtuous woman. But for now, this woman is the crown — the means of ruling, and the cause of honor to the one to whom she is joined.

Proverbs 12:3 Roots

A man is not established by wickedness, But the root of the righteous cannot be moved. Proverbs‬ ‭12:3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Or more literally:

A son of earth shall not be established by lawlessness, but the root of the righteous shall not be disturbed. Proverbs 12:3 Rotherham

Or more loosely:

You can’t find firm footing in a swamp, but life rooted in God stands firm. Proverbs‬ ‭12:3‬ ‭MSG‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Roots. It’s hard to move very far from metaphors in the kingdom that revolve around planting, growing, and fruitfulness. Jesus’ parable of the sower in Luke 8 likened the soil into which the seed was planted to the condition of our hearts in receiving his word, or any truth. Here, Solomon likens stability, peace, longevity, and even succession to a root. The way something grows, thrives, and the fruit it yields reflects a complicated ecosystem where nourishment, water, sun, heat, soil condition, and even the plant community in which it is planted have a bearing on success. Fruitfulness does not lie.

Foundations are important. People have an intrinsic need for stability and being established, or literally “standing erect or to be fixed, prepared, provided for…” When looking at a plant, it’s natural to focus on what its appearance, it’s beauty, and the fruitfulness it yields. Yet what is below ground and unseen is just as just as important. Just like the liver and intestines don’t look very pretty and are understandably hidden, so are the gnarly, far-reaching, spider web-looking roots. The seen and unseen are just as necessary for success. Roots literally ground the tree. They spread out seeking water and nourishment. And in the very act of identifying sources of vitality and life comes an underground support system that physically balances what is happening above ground. It’s no small coincidence that the biggest, most beautiful and fruitful trees and plants have well established roots. As a new believer I wanted maturity — and I wanted it now! I wanted to yield the same fruit as those I considered my mentors and models. Yet “now” was impossible. Maturity needs time.

As a side note, while I was contemplating a plant’s underground support system, it made me wonder about how communities of plants support each other. Although the idea has been around for a while that plants can hear and communicate, scientists are finding more evidence that in fact, this is happening. In 2013 Wired magazine published an article about a 1983 study that was originally discredited for a number of reasons, but now has new supporting evidence:

Two studies published in 1983 demonstrated that willow trees, poplars and sugar maples can warn each other about insect attacks: Intact, undamaged trees near ones that are infested with hungry bugs begin pumping out bug-repelling chemicals to ward off attack. They somehow know what their neighbors are experiencing, and react to it. The mind-bending implication was that brainless trees could send, receive and interpret messages. Wired Magazine, 12.20.2013

More on this may also be found in the Guardian.

Whether plant or human, getting the right balance for growth is not rocket science. It’s easy to tell when I am thriving and blooming, or when I’m not. One thing is certain, lawlessness or ignoring the rules and facts does not work. As depressing as it is to list, those who walk away from kingdom structure — suffer, whither, are cast aside for lack of value, and have no seed to offer or support to give. In a nutshell (no pun intended) they are not established. Memory of them is poof! gone.

But as a believer my roots, my source, are the rivers of life flowing from God’s Spirit. He’s providing me constant nourishment from an invisible place. It’s embedded in heaven. And the meal that flows to me daily is love, mixed with grace, possibility, hope, and a perspective that I could not create on my own. Going down is just as important as going up. From this root springs my person, that looks like any other person really, but is fundamentally different. I am a son of heaven, a son of God. And my root goes deep. The very promises and assurances that my Father gave to Adam, to Abraham, to Moses, the motley group of disciples, the adulterous woman, and everyone who believes are now mine.

I, Jesus… am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star. Revelation‬ ‭22:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Proverbs 12:2 Good

A good man obtains favor from the LORD, But a man of wicked intentions He will condemn. Proverbs‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

What is good, except that it is a reflection of our Heavenly Father? To stop long enough to realize that everything that I have, everything that makes me what I am is because of favor or grace. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Good or favor? The fact that I may consider something good, even myself, means that I have received his favor already to be able to see it. But there is a promise in this proverb: the intention and action toward good, the activity that makes me good, result in even more favor. There is a multiplication of favor.

Earlier Solomon established the path to this favor, and goodness:

My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man. ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:1, 3-4‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬

Goodness and favor are contrasted with “wicked intentions.” The Hebrew word is interpreted elsewhere to mean: wicked device, witty invention, mischievous device, from zamam; a plan, usually evil.

Preplanning schemes or devices that serve myself, no matter how clever, are misdirected. Motive matters. On the approval scales, these activities tilt toward “condemned.” But they serve to color the good person even more clearly. Ingenuity and creativity are also tools for good. Yet they flow from a different source, a different motive: a heart to serve and honor Yahweh, and to love others. I don’t need to plan or scheme for my good, my Father has already done that for me. Yet now, from me may flow the very good that I observe and have become. Spending myself for others that God loves is … good.