Greetings everyone. Let’s begin the Bible Study in Proverbs here in Proverbs 16:1. Proverbs 16:1 says:
1 The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.
Well, the first part of this verse shows that as human beings we have free moral agency. We can make plans. We can have ideas. We can make decisions and choices. But really, the outcome is in God’s hands. The plans, is a better translation—the plans of the heart in man, or the plans of the heart belong to man. It’s our choice. It’s our decision. It’s our free moral agency.
1 —and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.
In other words, we make the plans, we make the choices, we make the decisions. We want to make those plans and choices and decisions according to God’s word if we really want to do it right. But when it gets down to the final analysis—the answer of the tongue, the outcome of the decision, the good answer of the tongue, the good outcome of the decision is going to come from God. And if we’re close to Him, that will be a tremendous blessing.
2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weighs the spirits.
Human nature is such that we are quite egotistical of and by ourselves. And on our own, and we can be know–it–alls. We can be caught up with self—full of self. We can make the egregious error of thinking that everything we come up with is right, everything we are doing is right, everything we think, say, and do is correct—and not even really fully see ourselves.
It’s hard to really look at oneself and honestly admit what we see. Because the human nature that we have is such that all the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes. But in God’s eyes that’s not so. Because God sees who we are, what we are, what we think, what we say, what we do. And He analyzes us and He judges us and He measures us according to righteousness and according to His law—not according to the misvalues of mankind.
So the big thing we want to do is come to the point to where we can admit we’re wrong. It’s one of the hardest things for a human being to do. Admit we’re wrong. Admit that we’re not always right. Admit that we might be overlooking something. Admit that we might have misjudged someone, and that our ways are not always right or clean—if we really mature spiritually, and to come to realize that God knows the truth. He weighs the attitudes and the spirits and the facts, and He’s always right. And so we develop a close relationship with Him and we ask Him to guide and direct us and correct us. And we give Him our full attention and we have a teachable attitude. Then He can show us the right way—which sometimes is the way we’ve chosen, but sometimes it’s not the way we’ve chosen. And so then we will repent of the way we’ve chosen and go His way because His way is always the right way. That’s growing as a Christian.
3 Commit your works unto the Lord, and your thoughts shall be established.
In other words, go to God with everything. Commit your life to Him. Commit your hopes and dreams to Him. Commit everything you have. Ask Him to guide and direct you in everything you do, and I must do the same thing. We have to look to God for everything.
We don’t want to be out here on a limb, dancing our own jig and doing our own thing. What we want to do is commit everything into God’s hands so He will guide us, lead us, direct us, protect us, and bless us. And as we do that, as we walk with Him and talk with Him and listen to Him and obey Him, and commit everything into His hands, still doing our part in faith, look what happens:
3 —your thoughts shall be established.
Because if God be for you, who can be against you?
4 The Lord has made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
In other words, everything that God has created has a purpose—His purpose. Everything that He’s done and everything He’s created is for His purpose. And He is love and He is kindness and He is compassion and forgiveness. And so His purpose is a tremendous purpose, and it is for the good of all creation and for the good of everything and everybody in that creation. But there’s nothing that’s kind of bootlegging out here, doing its own thing, being its own person, walking its own way—except that God allows that because of free moral agency. But even in that case, He makes it work for Him and work for His purpose.
Even Lucifer’s rebellion when he turned into Satan and he’s gone throughout parts of the universe and all over the earth wreaking havoc—and God has allowed it and steps in and stops it here and thwarts it over there when He needs to. But even He is making that work for His overall great purpose of bringing mankind to repentance and of helping mankind build character by overcoming the pulls of the flesh, the pulls of the world and by overcoming Satan the devil. And He helps us do that.
4 —yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
His plan includes the outcome for the wicked. Not that He has predestined them to be wicked, because He has not. Predestination is not whatever will be, will be. Predestination is not no matter what you do, fate is going to see to it that it comes out a certain way. What we do makes a difference. Predestination has to do with group predestination. That is, God would call a group of people to be in His church and do His work. But who would be in that group, that was not predestinated. That depends on responding to His call.
And the same is true with the wicked. Nobody has to be wicked. But the outcome of the wicked is already set. They’re going to be punished because they break God’s law, and if they do not repent, they’re going into the Lake of Fire and they will suffer eternal death.
So God’s great purpose, God’s great plan, will be carried out. Nothing can thwart it. And in that great plan, He has made everything and everybody for a great purpose. But we have free moral agency to either fulfill that purpose—that is to one day be a part of His family—or to walk away from that purpose—that is to rebel and go our own way and then end up in the Lake of Fire. And that’s what’s reserved for the wicked. That’s what it means even the wicked for the day of evil. They will not be allowed to continue to be wicked for all eternity.
Once they’ve had a full opportunity and a full chance, if they don’t repent and change, then their outcome is already set. God has a purpose and a plan for the wicked who will not repent, who will not change, and that is eternal death.
5 Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.
Have you noticed how often as we’re going through this book of Proverbs that God denounces pride and anyone who is proud? And have you noticed how often, as we go through this book, God upholds humility? He blesses meekness, and those are two tremendous attitudes to weigh and consider.
Satan’s society cultivates pride. Just think of how many things are based on pride. National pride, school pride, team pride, personal pride. And people just feel like, “Well, I’m a proud person. I’m proud. I’m proud to be proud.” Well, look what God says.
5 Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord:—
Now, not being proud doesn’t mean we become slovenly and we don’t have opinions and we don’t have strong convictions. Not at all. We should have strong convictions and we should look sharp, feel sharp, be sharp. And we should have strong opinions, but they should be within God’s law and they should be guided by God’s spirit. And they should be according to the mind of Jesus Christ in us, which is an attitude of humility, which is something God loves.
He goes on to say, a proud person might think he’s going to get away with whatever he wants or she’s going to get whatever she wants, and they’ll gather an entourage around them, thinking nobody or nothing can stop them. That’s what it’s talking about here in verse 5.
5 —though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.
Doesn’t matter how big the entourage is. Doesn’t matter how big the estate is. Doesn’t matter how many guards the person has. Doesn’t matter how firmly ensconced he is in his compound—God’s laws are God’s laws, and wherever we go, they bring blessings as we keep them, they exact a penalty as we break them. And He upholds and sustains those laws. So there’s no getting away from blessings through obedience, punishment and curses through disobedience. Even though the proud think they’ll be exempt from that.
6 By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Eternal men depart from evil.
God is full of mercy and when we repent, He forgives us. And He is the source of truth. And when we follow that truth, we then will be purged of our sins and purged of the penalty of those sins. And so by mercy and truth iniquity is purged, or atonement is provided instead of pain and suffering, reconciliation instead of disaster. Why? Because of mercy and truth.
6 —and by the fear of the Eternal men depart from evil.
You know, if we stand in awe of God, we’re going to obey God. And if we obey God, we’re not going to get involved with evil and with evil people. It’s going to take us in the opposite direction. That’s why it’s so important to stand in awe of God, to fear Him—because it leads to obeying Him. And obeying Him leads to right decisions, which bring blessings and will put us around the right kind of people and in the right direction in which to live our lives.
But if we don’t fear God, and if He’s not really important to us, and if He’s not number one in our lives, we’ll begin to make decisions that lead us toward evil and evil people. We won’t depart from evil. Why should we? And it’s up to us now to decide what is right and wrong, and what is good and evil. And it’s not in man to make that decision. Because we don’t have the mind of God when we just walk away from Him and go it alone. But when we fear Him and we yield to Him and submit to Him and we stand in awe of Him, then we have the mind of Jesus Christ guiding us. And then we can use our mind, guided by the holy spirit of God, to know what is right, know what is wrong, stand in awe of God, fear Him and depart from evil. What a tremendous blessing to know that!
7 When a man’s ways please the Eternal, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Isn’t that a tremendous verse? That’s one of the most wonderful verses in the whole Bible. We don’t have to get guard dogs and submachine guns and hand grenades. We don’t have to study karate and all kinds of deadly self–defense courses. We don’t have to lay awake at night and toss and tumble in fear. We don’t have to pace the floor and jump at every creak or noise or disturbance. What we have to do is with every fiber of our being always try to please God. And we’re not going to always do that, so we’re going to have to repent and change. And then He’s going to have to forgive us. And then we’re going to have to turn around and start trying to please Him. And if we keep on trying, with His help, we will please Him. And look at what happens:
7 When a man’s ways please the Eternal,—
Our attitude is right, our actions are right. We’re warm and friendly. We try to keep the commandments. We try to consider others. We love our neighbor. We love God. We do the right thing. Look what happens then. We don’t need an army. We don’t need a tank. We don’t need a bodyguard. We don’t need a compound, a bunker, a bazooka. Here’s what happens:
7 —he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Did you know that would be true nationally? Did you know that if our nation was really pleasing God in all that we do from border to border and sea to shining sea, we wouldn’t need bombers and missiles and tanks and technological advances and military weapons of death that we have? We wouldn’t need a big army and navy and air force. We wouldn’t need any of it.
God would take care of us—just like He took care of ancient Israel. He would fight our battles for us and He would cause our enemies to be at peace with us. Because He has the ability and the power to do that. He is God and He says that. So this works individually, it works as a family, it works as a church, it works as a nation. It would work all over the globe.
7 When a man’s ways please the Eternal, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
That’s our greatest defense—get close to God and please Him.
8 Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.
Or without justice. That’s right. It’d be better just to be even in poverty, but God won’t leave you in poverty if you’re serving Him. But it would be better to not have all that much, just enough to meet our needs and maybe a little more and be walking the way of righteousness, than have a thousand, a hundred thousand, a million, ten million, a billion, ten billion without any justice.
We can start naming names of tycoons who have been so wealthy they don’t even know how much money they have. And yet they don’t serve God, obey God, yield to God, walk with God, and so therefore they don’t really have security. They don’t really have peace of mind and they don’t really have justice or practice justice because God is not squarely in the middle of their lives and they’re not walking with Him.
9 A man’s heart devises his way: but the Lord directs his steps.
In other words, we do make plans. We have to plan our budget. We have to plan our day. We have to plan our year. If we’re going on a trip, we should plan our trip. We have to have family planning. It’s good to think ahead, to have goals and to have plans, and ask God to guide us in choosing these goals and making these plans. But in the final analysis, it is God who blesses those plans or doesn’t. It is God who directs those plans or doesn’t. And so we need to beseech Him on our knees everyday, “Please guide me in making these plans, God, and please direct the outcome, and please show me where I need to change directions so you’ll be pleased and bless the outcome and the direction and the implementation of these plans.” Don’t forget God in all that we do is what so many of these proverbs tell us.
10 A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresses not in judgment.
Of course, this is talking about a good king—one that is righteous, one that is obeying God, one that is trying to please God. So then he has a lot of power, and what he issues forth as an order or a decree, it is a very powerful thing. God will back it up.
10 —his mouth transgresses not in judgment.
He makes decisions that are pleasing in God’s sight and good for the people. He thinks about what is the right thing to do when he makes a change, initiates a program, or renders a decision. A bad king, a bad leader, a bad person in power, that’s altogether different. But verse 10 is talking about a good leader, a good king, a good person in power.
11 A just weight and balance are the Eternal’s: all the weights of the bag are his—
11 —his work.
Now, we read this quite often in this book. Why do we read about a just weight and balance and how important it is to God? Well, you know, it has to do with the commandments. If it is an inaccurate weight, no matter what it might be, a trucker pulling up to a weigh station and weighing his load and the weights are cheating, and so therefore he’s being stolen from—an unjust weight is deceptive. God doesn’t like that.
An inaccurate weight is actually stealing from the person. And so He likes a just weight, God does, and balance because then it’s loving our neighbor. It’s telling the truth about what such and such or so and so weighs. And the outcome is one of accuracy, not one of deception and stealing, which is lying and coveting and stealing—breaks three of the commandments.
11 —all the weights of the bag are his work
Or his concern. So it’s not just a matter of why is he concerned about accurate weights. You have to tie it in with the law and it leads to at least three commandments being kept or broken regarding accurate weights and inaccurate weights, whether it’s a small weight or a huge weight weighing hundreds of tons of goods.
12 It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.
And you read in the Bible about kings that were horrible kings. And the people suffered greatly and they were destroyed. And they were replaced by another horrible king which did the same thing. And then occasionally a good king would come along and he would do the right thing. And his whole realm prospered and the people were happy and God blessed his reign.
So leadership is important, and when a person is in a position of leadership, he better really think carefully about the responsibility because if that leader, who has a tremendous amount of power to do good, does not do well but rather does wickedness, that is an abomination. But in that position of power, if that leader does what is right, many people are helped. And his throne will be established and God will back him up and bless him and look after him if he’s trying to do the right thing for righteousness.
13 Righteous lips are the delight of kings; and they love him that speaks right.
Now, anyone likes to hear the other person speak right and speak true things if they have a lick of sense. Of course, some people are so wicked, they couldn’t tell the difference if they heard it. But those who really are intelligent and who have values and standards, they like to hear truth being spoken and right things being said or written.
And it’s also true when the subjects of a leader or the subjects of a king hear him speaking right things. From that leader—from that president, from that prime minister, from that king—come righteous things. Well, everybody relaxes and everybody is happy and everybody loves him. How often do you hear that, however, today in the political climate on this earth and in this world and in this society which we live? Very, very rarely.
14 The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it.
The king has so much power and he’s in such a position of strength that in times of monarchies and in times of kings, they held life and death in their hands. And if they said this person is going to die, that person would die. And if the king got really mad and upset, quite often, that was the outcome. Nowadays, there are not too many kings, but there are people in positions of power who can render death sentences or commute those death sentences.
14 —a wise man will pacify it.
A wise man will try to explain. A wise man will try to negotiate and appease and try to help the individual who has this kind of power think big and get all the facts and reconsider. Not just go ahead and be stubborn and say, “If I die, I die.” Sometimes explaining the circumstances will clarify the circumstance and a different decision will be rendered because of doing that. So it’s always good when one has an opportunity, not to justify oneself, but not to capitulate on doing what is right, but to clarify things in a humble and meek way, which can help the one going to make the decision make a better decision.
15 In the light of the king’s countenance is life; and his favor is as a cloud of the latter rain.
In other words, if the king appreciates what the person is doing, if the person is a diligent individual, a dependable individual, one who’s trying to do right, and the king is a righteous king, then if you have the king’s favor and if he appreciates and recognizes what you’re doing, that means you’re going to have a better life and that means you’re not going to be facing trouble or even death from that king.15 —his favor is as a cloud of the latter rain.
This is a farming analogy. The former rain is a wonderful thing because it falls once you have, let’s say, planted the corn. And then the seed can germinate and come up. The latter rain falls just as the corn crop is ready to ripen and therefore it brings it to full maturity. The heads of corn are fully developed because that latter rain fell at just the right time. It’s a blessing. It’s a pleasant thing. It’s a wonderful thing. And having the king’s favor without playing politics and without flattery is a wonderful pleasant thing as well. Whether it is the employer or, you know, the head of the house or the mayor or the minister or whoever is in a position of leadership, they want you to appreciate them. And when they appreciate you, that’s a wonderful and nice thing. It’s a blessing. But it has to be based on doing the right thing both on their part and on yours and on mine.
16 How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!
Of course, that’s easy to read. And of course that’s easy to say, “Oh that’s right.” But how many of us really wrap our mind around what verse 16 says and believe it right down to our innermost being? Would we choose wisdom over a gold bar from Fort Knox? Would we choose understanding over a big sack of pure silver coins? Well, if we understand the truth and if we understand the big picture, the answer is yes, we would.
But if we’re small–minded and if we think little and if we’re selfish, it’ll be very tempting to take the gold and take the silver and worry about wisdom and understanding later. And that will be a huge mistake.
We’ll stop there and pick it up in verse 17 next time.
This is Charles Bryce with the Enduring Church of God.
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