Words to live by | Online journal of Marc Heriot

Archive for the ‘Proverbs’ Category

Proverbs 12:22 What does God like?

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, But those who deal faithfully are His delight. Proverbs‬ ‭12:22‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Delight

What does it mean to be God’s delight? There is something inside people that compels us to please. We please our parents, our spouse, our employer, and sometimes — even ourselves. But can I really please God? There is something about the word “delight” that conveys being happy, ebullient, joy-filled. It reflects a high degree of pleasure and enjoyment. Joy. Even rapture. It connects a once deep desire for something then realizing it. When I have an idea, for example, to build a home, it follows a progression: I make plans. Count my costs. Buy materials. Build. After some time and work I look up and see the fruit of my efforts. Accomplishing my plan is a delight!

God has been working on something too, building a house — in us.

Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. Isaiah‬ ‭66:1-2‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬

Out of all of that God has made, his delight is most particularly focused on… me.

I, wisdom… was beside Him, as a master workman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, Rejoicing in the world, His earth, And having my delight in the sons of men. Proverbs‬ ‭8:12, 30-31‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬

And He would want me to be equally delighted in Him.

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:4‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Delight is a relationship with God. It’s a two-way journey of exploration and building. He made me to be malleable, sheep-like, with a unique capability of learning and growing, seeing and imitating, then becoming the reflection of that which I gaze upon. As my focus is on Him and his kingdom — the essence of my person reflects that. And as I delight in Him, he too delights in me. Just like a parent has an incredible love for her child. Or a lover has unspeakable affection for her companion.

Faithfulness

With this in mind, the nugget Solomon tosses out is a big one. Dealing faithfully delights Him. Why? Because God deals faithfully, honestly, truthfully. As I value faithfulness, observe it, learn about it, and become, he delights in both my character and the result it produces. My daily transactions matter to Him and are a reflection of His kingdom. The Hebrew word used for “faithfully” conveys predictability, stability, steadiness, and figuratively security, morality. The resulting idea means that I act with a sense of personal responsibility and maintain a position of trust. I fulfill obligations I had previously agreed upon. It is integrity in action. What I say, I will do. It is contrasted with “lying lips.” It’s truthfulness in action. This is the same disposition God takes with me and mankind. He is a promise-keeper. It is the core of who He is. He cannot break his word. He is intrinsically trustworthy. Although man’s nature hides our true selves and motives, he woos us back to faithfulness, transparency, and truthfulness so I too may reflect him and His kingdom.

What better example than that of the man from Galilee?

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” Matthew‬ ‭17:5‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬

On the other end of the scale is the word “Abomination.” It is hard to find a more powerful word for something someone dislikes — and is a good contrast to the word delight. It means something disgusting (morally). An abhorrence. In English, it is an intense aversion or loathing. A vile, shameful, detestable action. Regarding with extreme repugnance or aversion. Loath. Detest utterly. It’s a strong word!

Solomon’s proverbs are short statements, but they contain incredible chunks of gold. He says in Proverbs 2, that if you search for wisdom and understanding like a hidden treasure, then you will find the knowledge of God. When he uses intense words about what God loves and hates it makes me stop and pay attention.

I hope to have the same testimony that David did:

He rescued me because He delighted in me. 2 Samuel 22:20

Proverbs 12:21 Safety and trouble

No harm befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble. Proverbs 12:21 (NASB)

From the Hebrew Lexicon: No trouble, sorrow, wickedness, will have opportunity, to meet or encounter opportunely, with the just, righteous, but to the wicked, criminal, to be full, to fill, evil, distress, misery injury, calamity.

At face value, when I read the words “no harm” I immediately think of how many things both good and bad that people endure in life. Being a child of God does not mean I am exempt from misfortune, yet by aligning my heart and behavior with the kingdom I will not suffer the ultimate consequences of doing evil or bad things. Behavior produces results. Good behavior produces good results.

There is something profoundly concrete about the Lord’s protection over his people. He cradles us in safety and security. There is no ambiguity or wavering in my Father’s support and protection of me. If he gave his son, what else would I need that He wouldn’t give me? Yet, I must navigate his intent of peace with the evidence presented by a fallen world (and my fallen behavior at times). Last night, a good friend who loved God and believed for healing lost a brutal fight with cancer. Did harm befall her? In the natural it looks like it. But my standing on the unshakable foundation of his goodness does not change the reality of sin still wreaking havoc on earth. Jesus was sleeping in a boat rocked by a storm which was threatening his disciples. At their panic He woke up and calmed the sea, then asked why his disciples doubted. He has authority, but doesn’t always make the bully go away. We will confront the threat of harm. But I may be convinced of His goodness toward me despite it.

Let me put it a different way. The promise of safety comes from a relationship. God makes that promise to me. Do I believe it? Do I trust him? Even when evidence seems contrary? It was man that walked away from trust in the garden. So when God promises safety, although I understand He’s fully capable of changing physical circumstances, he doesn’t always (for reasons we don’t understand) — yet in my trouble there is a unique opportunity to regain what was lost in the beginning. Whether I am delivered from physical trial or not, he has guaranteed life. Eternal life. Ultimate good. Period. I don’t for a moment believe God relishes our suffering in the least. He sent the remedy for it! Yet, at the risk of oversimplifying what is happening to me, there are forces at work, timing that is not yet, that the people of God must endure, while trusting, until the change comes. And it will come.

For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked… till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Psalm‬ ‭73:3, 17‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Clarity comes as I spend time in his sanctuary, his presence. My need for safety is such an essential thing and today I have all that is needed to have peace of mind and absolute assurance of His goodness. The peace of God, the counsel of peace, the Prince of Peace speak to my distress. Nothing can harm my person — despite the tribulation in this world. Although sin threatens me, there are consequences I will not encounter. Judgments against me which are not allowed to frighten.

No harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. Psalm‬ ‭91:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm‬ ‭121:7-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John‬ ‭16:33‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. ‭‭John‬ ‭10:28-29‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Proverbs 12:20 Deceit or Joy

Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil [contrivers of mischief], but those who promote peace [counselors of peace] have joy. Proverbs‬ ‭12:20‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ [Rotherham]‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The Hebrew word for plot means: to cut in, engrave, plow, devise. It’s often used of a farmer planting seed. And the seed being planted here, in the Hebrew means: evil, distress, misery, injury, calamity. Who would do such a thing? Being a “contriver of mischief” or an evil plotter sounds like Dr. Dastardly and his tireless effort at world domination. But in reality I am that person when I obsess over a plan that advances my interests at the expense of another’s. It works deliberately to fool or persuade for my benefit. And the result? And because Deceit is at the core of my effort, I create a resting place for him. He enjoys my company. He feels at home in me. But he’s not a pleasant fellow or a good companion.

When I choose to “promote peace” or be a “counselor of peace,” it doesn’t mean I become a Secretary of State, or a hostage negotiator. It simply means I mediate between two extremes. It could mean I help mitigate unhealthy stress in a friend. Or clear up a misunderstanding and its resulting discord between two coworkers. Or offer wisdom for a way out to someone who is experiencing financial hardship. No matter what the circumstance, the Wonderful Counselor who has made His home inside me also becomes the Prince of Peace in my world. The result? He feels at home within me. Takes up residence. He’s really a pleasant fellow and a good companion.

I have to remind myself as I’m reading Proverbs that life is not as black and white as the opposites that Solomon contrasts. He speaks of two kinds of individuals that seem worlds apart, yet what about the little mischief and plotting or counsel of peace in my own heart? Daily it’s a choice.

There are two contrasts in this verse. The first is between plotting evil and counseling peace. They represent roles I may take for outcomes I desire. So what is it I want? (This is always a good question to ask myself every day.) Plotting and executing plans for my own good, rather than for a higher, better, further reaching good will result in leveraging deceit. Which in turn results in contention and strife. Darkness only thrives in the absence of light — and the absence of joy. Plotting for my own good at the expense of another does not produce peace — rather, it obscures and hides truth. Darkness obscures. But when the light appears, I see the nasty obstacles, the path forward, and it embeds hope within for a way out of the contention I feel within. The Holy Spirit’s word to me is light and brings incredible peace. Those who bring his light to others calm the storm’s fury.

The other contrast is between deceit and joy. These are the fruits or results of my chosen character — and the means for fulfilling their roles. In the presence of light, darkness flees. Darkness has no substance, no definition, nothing to offer when light is present. Joy doesn’t simply appear, poof, because of my behavior. It is the tool and the premise for peace. I choose joy. Happiness. Contentment. And as a result, I am intentional about distributing the peace it provides. When joy is present, it dominates over the need to plot, plan, and devise a way forward. The joy of honesty, transparency and authenticity and my Father’s absolute acceptance of me as I currently exist triumphs over the need to lie, connive and weasel my way through life. Even in the midst of pain or a difficult situation, having my eyes set on the horizon and the good that my Father promises me brings it into my moment.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews‬ ‭12:2-3‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬

Proverbs 12:19 Truth lives forever

Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment. Proverbs 12:19 (NASB)

The Emphasized Bible says:

A lip that is faithful shall be firm to futurity, but only for a twinkling (while I wink) is a tongue that is false. Proverbs 12:19 (Rotherham)

When something is “established forever” it means it persists and remains, compared to those things that appears “for only a moment” or vanish quickly. “A lip that is faithful” is a heart and value for that which is true. Truth lasts. Why? Because it’s real. Present. Upon inspection it remains intact. A lie is not true (duh!) but something manufactured for a moment. For a particular and selfish cause. When you open your eyes and look for it, or shine a light upon it, it isn’t there.

This proverb is not just about truth or lies, it’s about the people aligned with them. Every day I may walk toward what is true, real, life-giving, or what is obscure, hidden, and self-serving. Clinging to “facts” doesn’t mean I have truthful lips. I may see a person with a face damaged in an auto accident. It’s a fact this one may not be magazine material, but to express that fact is not helpful. But the truth is: skin is only so deep. It is temporary. I must go deeper than what I see on the surface. Yet our heart, mind, and soul are eternal, which God finds extraordinarily valuable. Valuable enough to spend what is most valuable to Him to purchase something else that is of incredible value. Aligning with God’s heart allows me to interpret “facts” through the lens of truth.

The symbolism Solomon uses makes me smile. The expression “while I wink,” means, at the blink of an eye, or for a moment. I see a mischievous person telling a story or explaining something that is absurd, then winking, as if to say, “trust me.” Which to another means, you are pulling my leg and are full of it! Lies can be a playful way to communicate, or gravely misleading. Either way, it doesn’t last. It makes me think of the times I obfuscate my real motivation. Maybe I’m afraid to reveal what I really want, or I am intent on getting my way, even if it means I’m not fully truthful. And in this, I align with darkness.

So often “truth” speaks of things I cannot see. The only way I can speak it is if it has made its way into my heart. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” To know him, his heart and his kingdom, allow me to see what is real, even if it looks like it contradicts the facts. From difficulty, despair and death on this earth, Jesus tells me I have life, victory, and richness in heaven. He’s given me gigabit download speeds to the internet of heaven in the Holy Spirit. It’s a choice to align with truth and speak it.

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.