Friday, June 23, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 30, The Righteous Versus The Wicked, Part Two

We continue on with Solomon's short and easy-to-remember proverbs about the difference in outcomes when a person either lives righteously or wickedly. I think it's possible the young men he taught actually memorized some of these proverbs. These proverbs would have been helpful in their daily lives as they went out into the world to become responsible members of society.

"A person is praised according to their prudence, and one with a warped mind is despised." (Proverbs 12:8) To be prudent is to be discerning, sensible, responsible, and respectable. To be warped is to be deviant, corrupted, depraved, or twisted. Solomon says, "Your character will either earn you honor or dishonor. It's up to you, but if I were you I'd want my behavior praised, not despised."

"Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food." (Proverbs 12:9) The king advises, "Work hard and do what's right even if it never earns you a high rank or a big title. What use is being of noble birth and being called "lord" or "duke" or "prince" if there isn't enough food on the table? Don't ever think you are too good to work because of who you are." Solomon could easily have lived a life of leisure twenty-four hours a day, but he was a hard worker. He was never content to be idle. While it's true he knew how to play hard, he also knew how to work hard. Work was a priority for him.

Next Solomon speaks one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible about animals, "The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel." (Proverbs 12:10) Bible scholar Adam Clarke says, "One principal characteristic of a holy man is mercy; cruelty is unknown to him." Amen! There is something desperately wicked in the heart of anyone who can be cruel to an animal. If we need an example of a warped mind, this is it: a person who enjoys hurting the helpless. A person who will harm an animal also has the potential to harm children or the handicapped or the elderly. I wouldn't put anything past a person who is cruel to animals. God has several things to say in the holy Scriptures about the care of animals; therefore I expect He will judge every act of cruelty against them. He talks about animals because they matter to Him. I don't believe He will allow cruelty against them to go unpunished.

If a man treated his animals poorly, he would soon have no oxen to pull the plow, no cows or goats to give milk, and no sheep to give wool. Solomon lived in a mainly agricultural society and he knew that only a fool would fail to take good care of the animals the Lord had entrusted to him. Solomon is saying that a godly person cannot be cruel and neglectful to his animals because it isn't in him to be cruel and neglectful, but he's also saying a smart man will see the practical value in keeping his animals in tip-top shape.

"Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense." (Proverbs 12:11) Solomon asks, "Do you want to eat this winter? Then you better get to work. Get your head out of the clouds. Stop following get-rich-quick schemes. You are probably not going to win the lottery or come up with an invention that makes you a millionaire overnight. Get up, get your overalls on, and get behind the plow. If you don't sow the seed you won't have a harvest."

"The wicked desire the stronghold of evildoers, but the root of the righteous endures." (Proverbs 12:12) The wicked believe they can make and hold onto wealth by doing what is wrong, by simply taking what they want. But as we studied earlier this week, the wicked will someday be uprooted. The righteous, however, will never be uprooted, but will grow and flourish under the care of the Lord.

"Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble. From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward." (Proverbs 12:13-14) King David is believed to have written these words, "Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours." (Psalm 128:1-2) David sees a direct correlation between a person's deeds and a person's blessings. Honest work performed in the fear of the Lord will bear fruit. We may never become millionaires or be given a fancy title, but our needs will be supplied. The prophet Isaiah agrees, for the Lord said to him, "Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds." (Isaiah 3:10) The works of the wicked will also bear fruit...ugly fruit, worthless fruit, fruit that earns them judgment. "Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done." (Isaiah 3:11)

We have a choice, just as Solomon's students had a choice. We can live lives that bear godly fruit or we can live lives that bear evil fruit. It's up to us. But this is what is promised to the one who lives for Christ, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a) Who doesn't want a life filled with joy and love and peace? Now that's some fruit worth finding!

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