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Archive for the ‘Proverbs’ Category

Proverbs 12:18 Weaponized words

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18 NASB

I can feel the deep emotion reflected in this verse. A wounded spirit is not in the same category as a broken limb or a cut finger. “Speaking rashly” according to Strong, is from batah; a primitive root; to babble; hence, to vociferate angrily — pronounce, speak (unadvisedly). I have vented these one-sided conversations with, or on others, working hard to authenticate myself. I’m human. But Solomon takes it further to say, “… like the thrust of a sword.” The speaker’s intent is to damage and hurt. Words are powerful and no one wounds like the wounded. I have been on the receiving end of another’s outburst. Once the words start rolling off their tongue, it is like a dam breaking—there’s no way to stop the flood of emotion, hurt, and misunderstanding. I can live with a one-sided conversation, but when the sword strikes my person, it feels violent. Cruel. Using words thoughtlessly and without control is like a highly pressurized hose that someone turns on without holding it… it flops and flails wildly and everyone nearby gets soaked. Getting wet is one thing, being sliced and diced is another.

The words that come from my mouth reflect the experience of my soul and spirit.

For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. Matthew 12:34-36 NASB

My heart and mind is often the battlefield, the violent intersection of bad or good, sickness or health, poverty or prosperity, darkness or light, or even demonic or angelic. How my soul processes the taunts, bullying, and belittling of others, or their subtle nod, praise, or recognition defines who I am. Since Adam’s fall in the Garden, the odds have been substantially tilted toward my adversary’s goal of damage and irretrievable well-being of my soul. Until Christ.

Words which scar and mar, may also be used for health and wealth (of soul). Solomon makes the connection earlier:

My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Proverbs 4:20-22 NASB

The word “wise” is from chakam; meaning Intelligent, skillful or artful — cunning (man), subtle, wise (hearted). The picture of intentionality. Purpose. Assessing a situation and responding in a way that brings out the best good.

I need healing. We all do. The head on collision I had with sin caused internal injuries I am still recovering from. Yet, I receive grace as I sit at my Savior’s feet — a great love he pours like a stream of oil into my heart and mind. Even into my memories. Although healing is my Father’s gift to me, I may clothe myself in his wisdom which becomes a bubbling fountain of refreshing that I may share with others at the perfect Spirit-directed moment. When I hear your pain, see the expression of your loss or confusion, or even despair, I may pull from the treasure he’s placed again and again in my soul and share it with you. And you with me.

“The wise” are those that are skilled, observant. Healing others’ wounds could be a full-time job, if I opened my heart to it. Starting my day at His throne helps me center on and receive from my source of life for the day. Rather than be a consumer, I want to be a producer. Rather than be an observer, a player. Field rather than sidelines. Action rather than inaction. In the morning I aspire to have my needy old man nailed to a cross and buried six feet under. My new man hears words such as “You are a mighty man, a warrior, nothing can snatch you from my hand, you are chosen, I knew you before you were born, everything you need is yours for the asking” and on it goes… When I’m not consumed with myself, I notice you. I hear and see just what you need. I speak the word, and you are healed. Yes, you’re beautiful. Capable. I understand the pain you feel, but let’s get over it and experience something else now.

Although the tongue may be weaponized, my God uses it to heal and make whole:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NASB

Proverbs 12:17 People recorders

He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.
Proverbs 12:17

The Emphasized Bible says:

He that whispers faithfulness declares righteousness, but a false witness is a fraud.

A witness comes from the Hebrew root meaning: to return, go about, repeat, do again. Only recently do we have iPhones and the instant ability to record events. A recording takes away the interpretation, bias, perspective, and time — which affects a person’s memory. When a court is establishing an account of what happened, the judge or jury must rely on those who saw and recorded it in their memories to recount the event. A witness is someone who “does again” and repeats what he or she saw.

An iPhone has no motive to lie about what I recorded. People do.

Is it any wonder that when qualifying a witness an attorney will explore a person’s biases, motivation for coloring an incident a particular way, their history at telling the truth, and try hard to poke holes at their account? The honesty I choose to live every day and my commitment to the truth affects the way I observe my world. And when a person is more committed to an outcome (that they desire) than to honesty, it too affects his perception of what happened. It’s incredible to consider, but if I rehearse something enough in my mind, I will believe it, even if it never happened.

Take the sunrise, for example. One man will yawn and slowly breathe in the smell of coffee, sit back and enjoy the incredible miracle of the color palette adorning his sky. Not only is it a thing of great beauty, it represents a new day. A fresh start. While looking, he hears a chorus of voices within singing of the majesty of his Father who created this moment just for him. In another city a few miles away, another man looks up and sees the clouds overhead. Tired, weary, and bitter, he curses the city he lives in. How can there be a God in this hellhole? Today is another day to get ahead of others before they get ahead of him.

Whose version of the sunrise would you believe?

As if by repetition in order to make his point, Solomon says later:

A faithful witness will not lie, but a false witness speaks lies. Proverbs 14:5

I desire my eyes and memory to be open to the reality of what is happening in my world today. For all the bias and hurt I carry, I want the incredible interaction with my good God to be that which comes out of my lips, telling all who will listen to: do again.

Proverbs 12:16 Emotional maturity

Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult. Proverbs‬ ‭12:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Rotherham’s translation says:

A foolish man on the same day lets his vexation be known, but he that conceals an affront is prudent. Proverbs 12:16

Annoyance is universal, my agitated response doesn’t have to be.

Vexation is such a visual word, meaning: to irritate, annoy, provoke, to torment, trouble, distress. From the Latin to annoy, harass, shake or jolt. The Hebrew is translated: to provoke or anger. A fool’s response to it is immediate or “on the same day.” The word comes from a root meaning to be hot; a day (as the warm hours). When I express annoyance, it is often without a filter, on my timetable, and with little regard to its appropriateness or affect.

In contrast is the person with the discretion to overlook or conceal a matter. The Hebrew means to cover, or to clothe, from a primitive root meaning, to plump, i.e. Fill up hollows; by implication, to cover (for clothing or secrecy). When I’m insulted or ridiculed, the natural gut-level response is for me to strike back, but putting a lid on that emotion is a choice. It’s deliberate.

It’s natural for a child to grow and develop both physically and emotionally, but unlike the body, which matures on its own, the soul grows by my choices. I must learn how to feel deeply and express those thoughts in a way that is a benefit to those close to me. A newborn feels the pang of hunger and bellows his displeasure. The cry finally stops when mom fills his tummy. Eventually that cry matures to words, “Mom, I’m hungry.” And even later in life, “I’m pretty hungry now, but let’s keep working a bit longer till we finish.” Our feelings and emotions are complex. Translating hunger, nausea, dizziness to words takes practice, the same as communicating the feelings of friendship, acceptance, betrayal, and mistrust. Gaining a mastery over my emotions takes a lifetime.

When I am vulnerable and expressive, it is a gift — from me to God, and to others. When I express my emotions, they are a window to my soul, and when shared with those that are close to me, it connects us more tightly. My adversary would like to shut down any expression, yet Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Light, filling my person, must escape! Rivers that flow in must flow out. Expression is a kingdom virtue and my Father wants me to live out loud.

Discretion is also a kingdom virtue. I know some extraordinarily emotionally intelligent people. They are able to discern theirs and others feelings and navigate the soul like an ice skater circles the rink with grace. I want to be like them when I grow up. I want to better be able to distinguish between the nuances of what I express and the impact it has. As I do, I may more easily navigate this world, make friends, diffuse situations, and build relationships. Connecting with heart and emotions to my spouse is like having emotional sex that fuses our lives like molten metals making the perfect alloy. To excel in this emotional intelligence often means I need to slow down the natural, gut-level response to insult, or even legitimate complaints, and respond with grace.

As I navigate my world, I see how vast the spectrum of sensitivity and discretion is between people. Yet, no matter where I start in Christ, he gives me a promise: the fruit of the Spirit includes patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23). Even if my natural disposition is to show my irritation, and attempt to control or manipulate others with it, the Spirit invades this space and covers me. He conceals the things that would embarrass and belittle.

Annoyance may be universal, but so is my Father’s grace which enables me to choose a better way.

Proverbs 12:15 Wonderful Counselor

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel. Proverbs‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

This is a particularly painful proverb for me this morning. I am such a fool! I have so many blind spots in my own life. In my dreams last night it was as though I had a movie running of all of the missteps and failures I’ve experienced in a particular circumstance over the past several years, yet at the time, I marched ahead as though there was no other way to approach the situation. Yet, I don’t know what I don’t know. Every person lives from his or her own perspective and experiences, and from my view I am right, but my view is not a complete picture. There is always another view. If I were to have the opportunity to go back and “do over” I suppose I would not do anything differently today, except have a deeper sense of humility and a recognition that blind spots are just that — I don’t see them. I would spend more time trying to understand why you think the way you do and not react emotionally or defensively. And I would double my efforts to love and respect, even if I don’t appreciate the other’s behavior. They too have blind spots and I desire to treat others the way that I’d like to be treated. A fool is not a fool for his differences with another, but rather, for allowing a multiplication of those differences into a posture of incompatibility, alienation, or worse, conflict and killing (whether in real life or in my heart). I kill someone as soon as I cease to acknowledge them in my heart.

Does this blindness make me a fool? In my heart I know I’m my Father’s child and His and my goal is to be transformed into His image and likeness. Until then, or while this process is taking place, I accept that there are foolish things within. My own “right-ness.” So today I invite wisdom and pray that when I step on the scales the predominance of my person and perspective tip in that direction.

The heart of the fool is that of narrowness, limited perspective, quick judgement when not all sides have offered their version or perspective. Foolishness is magnified when based on that limited view, I make decisions that affect others negatively and put something in motion that is insensitive, hurtful, damaging, ignorant… and I could go on. Foolishness has no end to its effect. At its core, it elevates my way above another’s even though in the other person’s eyes, their way is just as valid. What a sticky mess!

But I love the remedy: counsel. The Hebrew interprets it as advice, counsel, advisement and some translate it designs, schemes, strategies. The idea is that there is purpose, collaboration, ideas coming together to bring the best possible outcome. I find it interesting that of all creatures on earth, man has the unique requirement to learn, to be taught or shown how to do something. And I find that in the very act of learning we show our love for our creator. The fact that I am teachable, open to wisdom and counsel, have a heart that wants to know the right thing to do or say, says much about my values and who I am. And it’s a predictor of who I will become. And along these lines, look at the many sources our wise teacher gives us — I’m meditating in Proverbs! He’s a wise and wonderful counselor. He’s put teachers in his church. And he’s given us a promise that if any lack wisdom I simply need to ask for it and he gives it liberally. I have many “counselors” at my disposal:

The counsel of circumstances

When you shoot a basketball, the swoosh through the hoop tells me whether my aim is on or off. When I grow flowers in my garden, the full blooms tell me when I have soil, sunlight, and supply just right. When my car careens off the road or into another vehicle, the sound of twisted metal tells me something has gone wrong. Life, and the good or bad that comes from it, is communicating something to me. Let my circumstances speak to me. The Holy Spirit is very good about pointing out what I need to hear.

The counsel of the Holy Spirit

There are so many benefits to being filled with the Holy Spirit — a quick read of John 14-16 and I am so heartened by what my Father gives me in His infilling presence. The Spirit of Jesus within is the ultimate “Wonderful Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6).

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John‬ ‭14:26‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬

The counsel of friends and others

When I read “listens to counsel” the first fulfillment in my mind is another person who is in the role of a trained counselor. Although I don’t believe people are our only source, they are possibly the intended target of Solomon, and an incredible resource. The body of Christ, my family, those close to me, all speak wisdom and counsel into my life. But I must ask for input, be open to it, recognize it for the gift that it is even when it’s hard to hear.

The disposition of listening to counsel — no matter the source — invites wisdom. Even so, I am thankful that Jesus is the author and finisher of my faith. He’s the one that wants to speak to me and fellowship with me. It’s when I recognize and hear his voice in prayer, in others, in circumstances, and in natural results, that I find real counsel.

Proverbs 12:14 Fruitfulness

A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words, and the deeds of a man’s hands will return to him. Proverbs‬ ‭12:14‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The fruit, or yield, of my words are like seeds planted in the ears of others. They find soil, receptivity, and growing conditions that produce results. Jesus’ parable of the sower comes to mind in that the quality of the land (or heart) that hears the words affects the harvest — whether the seed is choked out, or whether it finds good, well-tilled soil that produces good things. The focus in this proverb is the well-placed seed. From my heart I pull the good that my Father has given me and see an opportunity to speak or plant it in another. What a great delight when it helps — when the right word, at the right moment, finds the right person.

There are two kinds of fruitfulness, the first being what comes from my heart and mouth, the second comes from what I do. Solomon often contrasts two extremes or opposites, but here instead he uses succession and intensity— one thing following another with increasing results. The words coming from me can be powerful, but so is the “doing” — the labor or outflow of my work. “The deeds of a man’s hands will return to him” or another translation says, “paid back to him.” The Hebrew means to return, to pull in again, or come home. The idea of a natural circuit, or cycle that when it comes back to me is complete, as if it was a payment owed to me. And I find this to be a trait that is just like my Father — He has an expectation for increase whenever he invests or gives something. When something is sent, it returns. Fruitfulness is in His nature.

My fruitfulness comes from being connected to the vine. My closeness to Jesus, abiding in him and his people yields fruit in both my words and deeds. And to put it more plainly: Jesus expects fruitfulness of me. It is impossible to be connected to him and not yield something tangibly good. I like the progression of this proverb — first I speak, then I do. There is an order in how we humans do something. God plants good seed in our heart, we think about it, meditate upon it, allow it to take root, and it grows. But it is not enough for a thought or idea to remain inside. Experiencing life cannot be accomplished only by reading books or hearing stories. I must touch, taste, feel, and know it myself. It must come out. And before any action, there is something I express whether in word, to a friend, in my journal, in my plans. My heart sets a course before it moves. There is something special and powerful about saying something out loud. Speaking it in prayer, or declaring it to a friend. It’s emboldening. Cementing. From there I act. I must act. Life must be lived. Jesus didn’t teach so that we could simply watch re-runs of season 1 again and again. I am season 2. I must make my own story. And as with all good seed that I speak and do, it will come back to me. Just like it comes back to Jesus.

But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. ‭‭Luke‬ ‭8:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬

Proverbs 12:13 Daily opportunities

An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, But the righteous will escape from trouble. Proverbs‬ ‭12:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬

The order of the Hebrew helps to better understand the phrase: “By the transgression of the lips is a snare to the evil man.” The word transgression means the violation of a law, or to go beyond a limit or boundary that was set. To be ensnared carries the meaning of bait or a lure, and consequently a trap or snare set by the hunter or trapper.

Solomon’s proverbs hold immense power to teach and align my heart and world with the kingdom of God — and they are simply words that come from our lips (or pen). Although words proceed from the mouth they originate in the heart. They are not the substance but rather the fruit. Like clothing is to the body. Or oil on canvas is to the artist. There is hardly a person alive that hasn’t spoken, even surprisingly, something that really is not the intent of their heart. Yet just because something is communicated that I did not intend, does not remove my responsibility for its impact. I have hidden places that seem to only come out with certain people, or in unique circumstances. Who knows why my heart is unlocked and affected the way that it is in certain moments, but in the end, it’s an opportunity — and thus the catch. For example, if I encounter someone who frustrates me at work regularly, and from my mouth comes, “I’d like that person to fail miserably!” Mean? Yes. Compassionate? No. For me, if I heard myself say this I would pray it is an opportunity for exposure, for light to shine in my dark place, to jolt me to corrective action. Love in action would not say such words. I would rather love, forgive, and pray resolution for this person. Yet, the same thing spoken by someone with no regard for the King or his kingdom starts in the exact same spot. Yet, from those words comes a plan… “fail miserably, yes, I can help make that happen.” And the plot thickens.

I love this conclusion of this proverb: the righteous will escape from trouble! But not without effort, or work, or awareness, or self-reflection, and the Wonderful Counselor’s help. It’s my heart and (flawed) character that spoke such a thought, so I take responsibility for it. The Holy Spirit provides the opportunity. He’s the great alchemist mixing the elements of life to give me the opportunity to become more like him every day. Expect it. Expect surprises and gasps (from me) at what comes from my own mouth. But also expect escape. He always provides it. He’s a good Counselor and never leads me through a situation He can not deliver me from.

Proverbs 12:12 What do I want?

The wicked covet the catch of evil men, But the root of the righteous yields fruit. Proverbs‬ ‭12:12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬

Or, another translation:

The lawless man craves the prey [gain] of the wicked, But the root of the righteous is enduring. Proverbs 12:12 (Rotherham)

Man craves. I see and I want. Desire combined with my values create the context in which I live. What is it that I want? I endeavor to look in the mirror every morning and have an answer to that question. Whether or not I acknowledge it, what I want, or often what I need, propels my life forward — my behavior every day. It’s so much better to be thoughtful and intentional about that desire than let an impulsive, needy grab for something erupt unexpectedly to the shock of others (and myself!)

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says: There is perhaps an intended contrast between the restless and often fruitless activity of the hunter with his net, and the calm, stedfast fruit-bearing, as by a natural process, of the firmly-rooted tree.

The “catch” or “gain” that Solomon speaks of is a real thing. It’s an increase. If you are an outdoorsman, there is something very exciting about the hunt then the success of the kill. In a way, it is like a drug and when I am successful, the feeling of euphoria from my accomplishment is my opioid. This increase, whatever it is, is material. Temporary. Not self-sustaining. Gained by cunning or method. Or blackmail or deceit. But when the ends justify the means, and there is no discrimination about how I make my gain, one thing is certain… loving God, valuing his ways, aligning with his kingdom, fellowshipping with my creator, is NOT my desire.

On the other hand, living with a kingdom value, loving the king first, honoring and acknowledging my father in all I do is something I was born to live out. The provision that comes from kingdom values is steady, predictable in it’s season, constant year after year, deep — pulling from the nutrients of the earth and the history of those that have preceded me. It does not provide the narcotic-like high that the hunt provides, nor the manic low that failure brings.

The Pulpit Commentary says: The root supplies the sap and vigour needed for healthy produce. Without any evil devices or plotting, the righteous gain all that they want as the natural result of their high principles.

There are two natures inside of me; one pulls me to the excitement of the new, the rush, the catch, the unconventional, without regard for my values, laws, or the goodness others deserve. The other reminds me to be steady, drink deeply, skip the shortcuts, learn from those who have gone before, and prioritize relationships. The conclusion makes me laugh — kingdom life sounds like it may be drab, with no fun or adventure when I put it in these terms. But then I remember, God created fun. He leads us on paths that have spectacular views, incredible discoveries, and increase and provision — but in a context in which he provides great safety and care even in hell-raising adventure.