Greetings everyone. We‘ll start the Bible Study now in Proverbs 16:17, picking up where we left off last time. It says in Proverbs 16:17:
17 The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keeps his way preserves his soul.
He considers the direction he‘s going, the upright does, or she does. They ponder the path of their feet, and therefore when they see that they are approaching an evil situation or a bad situation or a dangerous situation, they will simply turn around and go the other way or go a different way.
This has to do with choosing through life–making decisions each and every day. It has to do with what we decide to do and what we don‘t decide to do. And so the upright will walk down the pathway, drive down the highway, will follow the way of life that departs from evil. Instead of going into a bar and getting into trouble, they‘ll pass on by the bar and go home and spend time with the family. Instead of staying around a group of people where you can see the conversation is going bad, and the attitudes are getting out of hand, and developments are something that cannot be good, you get up and leave.
17 —he that keeps his way preserves his soul.
Using wisdom in daily decisions regarding what we do, who we‘re around, the direction we‘re going in–I hope we can all do that.
18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
See, someone who overestimates himself ends up getting into trouble every time. And someone who underestimates others will end up probably getting into trouble also. As human beings, we get so taken with ourselves and so lifted up about how great we are and so lifted up about how smart we are, how talented we are, and how beautiful we are, and how strong we are, and how handsome we are. First thing you know, we start making miscalculations and misjudgments and we leave God out of the picture and here comes trouble, and ultimately here comes destruction.
A haughty spirit, a smart aleck, a cavalier, careless individual, one who smarts off and one who is impulsive and one who does not think about the decisions they‘re making carefully enough–a haughty spirit precedes a fall. It‘s because of the direction that a haughty spirit will take us.
Pride goes before destruction. It‘s because of the direction that pride will take us. It takes us toward destruction. Whereas humility takes us toward wonderful things, and whereas meekness takes us in the right direction and puts us in the right kind of company. Let‘s weigh that out. That‘s what the Bible says. God inspired this. It‘s up to us to make these choices. He will help us make the choices and help us carry out the choices.
19 Better it is to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
Once again, humility is a tremendous attitude. Have you ever noticed how humility attracts and vanity repels? Ask yourself, who do you really enjoy being around? Don‘t you enjoy being around a humble person, a meek person? I‘m not talking about false humility. A person can be humble and stand up straight. They can have a bounce to their step, a smile on their face, and a snap in their eyes, and still be humble. They know who they are. They know who God is and they consider other people. They‘re not always dominating everything and everybody and disregarding the feelings of others. They will listen and not just talk all the time. And they will learn and they‘re teachable.
It‘s better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, to be with other people who are humble unknowns and nobodies who are humble
19 —than to divide the spoil—
the plunder, to divide the riches and the wealth
19 —with the proud.
Who smirk and who strut and who feel so self–confident and so self–sufficient, and we‘ve already read, all of that simply is going to lead to a fall.
20 He that handles a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusts in the Lord, happy is he.
We all have to handle matters. It can be budget matters, family matters, job matters. It can be little things, big things, medium–sized things. It can be driving down the road. It can be settling a dispute. It can be carrying out a project. If we look to God to help us, and we ask Him for wisdom, and we get the facts, and we weigh the options, and we handle the matter wisely, we‘re going to find good things. We‘re going to be blessed and we‘re going to get good results.
20 —and whoso trusts in the Lord—
Not trusts in himself, not trusts in others–although we do have to have confidence in others and we do have to have a measure of godly confidence in what we do–but our total and complete and ultimate, one hundred percent, undiluted trust should only be placed in God because He‘s perfect. He will never let us down. So unqualified, unconditional trust in the Eternal, look what it says:
20 —happy is he.
Because God will respond to that, and blessings will come, guidance will come, peace will come, good things will happen. Happy is he, whoever trusts in the Lord–obeys God, listens to Him, depends on Him, looks to Him, walks with Him. It all comes together in verse 20.
20 —whoso trusts in the Lord, happy is he.
We all want happiness.
21 The wise in heart shall be called prudent:—
21 —and the sweetness of the lips increases learning.
You know, learning is a wonderful thing. You don‘t know something, and then you study it or you talk to someone who has good knowledge and you learn something you didn‘t know before, and it‘s a worthwhile set of things or it‘s worthwhile knowledge. It‘s just a wonderful thing. It‘s very encouraging, it‘s very interesting, it‘s very stimulating to learn.
And so, if we have wisdom and we use wisdom, we‘re going to be intelligent. We‘re going to have true intelligence and we‘re going to learn from what people say and what people write–if they are giving out good knowledge–and our learning will increase if we are seeking to learn, and seeking knowledge, and look to the right source, first of all God and His word, and then those who are obeying God.
22 Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that has it: but the instruction of fools is folly.
That‘s what we need. That‘s what we want. That‘s what we can have if we cry out for understanding. To really know why we‘re here, where we‘re going and what life is all about. To really know why things are escalating in this world as far as events that seemed to be spinning out of control and what the outcome will be. To really know who God is and what He requires and what is in the Bible. To really know about the truth regarding marriage and child–rearing and friendships and health. Understanding in all of these things and much more, it22 —is a wellspring of life unto him that has it:
And we can have it and we can grow in that. You know, if you see a river, as a general principle, you know, that river is not going to rise any higher than its source. So we have to be careful what the source of our understanding is. You can have a little stream, that stream is going to be at the level that its source pumps out. The source determines the quality of water of the stream and determines the rapidity of the water rolling down that stream and determines the level of it.
Now, of course, today there‘s pollution that gets thrown in there and there‘s all kinds of laws being broken regarding dumping things in our water system, etc. But as a principle, the key to a river, the key to a creek, the key to a stream is the wellspring or the source of that stream, the fountainhead of that stream.
Well certainly the same thing is true in terms of what we believe and what we understand. So what is our source of understanding? What is our source of knowledge? What is our wellspring and fountainhead of wisdom and understanding? We have to make sure that it‘s God and those who obey God, and then it‘s like a wellspring of life unto him that has that kind of understanding.
22 —but the instruction of fools is folly.
A fool begins to instruct people and it‘s sheer folly. It doesn‘t work. It doesn‘t hold up. It doesn‘t stand up. It won‘t flow and it won‘t run. It doesn‘t have legs. It stumbles and falls that kind of instruction. And besides, fools like instruction that‘s folly as well. They don‘t want to do what is right. They want to do what is wrong and try to make that work, and it never happens. We don‘t want to be that way.
23 The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips.
In other words, he‘s careful about what he lets in his mind. We can decide what comes into our minds through our hearing and through our sight and through our taste, touch, and smell. We can guard the door of our mind and so if we‘re careful about what we read and what we listen to and what we look at, then we are teaching our mind the right thing. The right knowledge is going into our mind, and that‘s what will come out of our lips, and that‘s what will come out of our mouths because out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.
There‘s an old saying: garbage in, garbage out. But look at it the other way: wisdom in, wisdom out. We want to make sure that we‘re careful about what we take in so we will be careful, and can be careful, about what goes out from us. And we want to learn and grow. We don‘t ever want to hit a holding pattern and get stagnant. But rather we want to grow in grace and knowledge, and have true knowledge about life and about how to live it.
One thing we ought to do is what Mr. Herbert Armstrong always taught at Ambassador College. We went there not just to learn how to earn a living, but to learn how to live. So first you learn how to live and then that will lead to learning how to earn a living. Got to get first things first.
24 Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
You know what that‘s like. You might be irritated, you might be angry, you might be out of sorts, you might be disoriented, and then you meet someone and start talking to them and they have pleasant, positive words, they understand, they‘re soothing. Or you might listen to someone on the radio, or you might listen to a good song, or you might read something that is well put, the turn of the phrase. It‘s like a honeycomb. It‘s sweet to the soul and health to the bones. It relaxes you. It settles you down. It enables you to shake off what is eating at you and chewing on you and turning your stomach upside down, and you can relax and you can realize, “You know what, this will all get worked out. This too will pass. Let‘s get the big picture. Let‘s keep things in perspective.”
Something interesting here as far as the honeycomb. The best honey, the most delicious honey, the most prized honey is the honey that just kind of seeps out of the honeycomb on its own. Now, when it has to be pressed out, that‘s also good. And in the right amount, in most cases, it can contribute to health. But that‘s not as good as the honey that kind of seeps out on its own, and that‘s what the point is here.
24 Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
The best honey is what pleasant words are like.
25 There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
We‘ve already read this exact verse over in Proverbs 14:12, and we explained it there. We just have to be sure. We have to get the facts. We have to prove all things. We cannot just have knee jerk reactions and hair trigger decisions. It can sure look good, sound good, seem good and feel good, but it may actually be wrong even to the point of being deadly.
So take your time, and we all have to take our time. Get the facts. Get counsel. Pray about it. Maybe even fast about it. Study about it. And realize that generally speaking, time tends to clarify things. If you roll up in front of a house and say, “This is a great house, let‘s buy it.” You ought to go sleep on it and come back and see it the next day, and maybe the next week, and see if you still feel that way.
Sometimes, of course, we have to make quick decisions. If the house is on fire, we get out of it. But the best decisions and the best conclusions are the ones that are arrived at, rather than jumping to a conclusion and jumping to a decision. They are arrived at methodically through a process of counseling and prayer and weighing and pondering and considering and looking at the pros and cons and the positives and negatives. And that way then we can avoid being taken in by what seems to be right, but actually ends up in death.
This is true in spiritual things. This is true in whatever church we become a part of. This is true in whoever we listen to in preaching from the Bible. This is true in whatever classes we take at college. This is true in whatever we believe from some of these professors at college that end up really actually peddling and teaching nothing but pure propaganda and gobbledygook in trying to indoctrinate their students. Don‘t let them do that to you. Sift through it and weigh it out and compare it with God‘s word. This is where the real truth is. This is the final word on what is right and what will work, and this does not lead to death. This book and these words and this Bible leads to life.
26 He that labors labors for himself; for his mouth craves it of him.
In other words, we all have to work. And in order to put clothes on our back and food on the table and a roof over our head–we want that, we need that, we‘re hungry for that–and so we work so that we can take care of our responsibilities and meet our obligations and support ourselves and our family.
Now we don‘t want to get so selfish that we don‘t think of others. It is more blessed to give than receive. And so as others have a need and we can afford it and they‘re going to use it right, we‘ve already seen that a Christian who is in the right attitude and follows the examples of Jesus Christ will think of others as well as himself. But he will also make sure that he is taking care of his needs and his responsibilities and his family and laboring hard for what he needs, and what he wants too, as well as when able and when possible, helping others. We have to be responsible, dependable people, and we have to take care of our own business and help others when we can.
27 An ungodly man digs up evil: and in his lips there is a burning fire.
This is one of the most despicable kind of people that I can think of. Someone who just goes around trying to dig up gossip, dig up rumor, dig up bad things, dig up evil on others. Sometimes it‘s true, sometimes it‘s not true, but in either case, we ought not go around trying to dig all that up. The person repents of that, is buried under the blood of Jesus Christ and they want to move on. We ought to be thankful that it‘s been forgiven and they can move on. But no, an ungodly person, they will dredge all of that up, they will dig it all up and they will spread it around, and God does not like that. He calls someone who does that an ungodly man or woman,
27 —and in his
27 —lips there is a burning fire.
It‘s amazing what words can do in harming other people, as well as what pleasant words can do in helping other people. And yet God holds us responsible for our words–good or bad. The good words God will bless us for. The bad words we‘re going to be punished for, and other people will be hurt, and that too will be something that brings a penalty.
Let‘s make sure we don‘t gossip and spread rumors and dig up stuff. Let‘s leave all of that in God‘s hands and appreciate people each day for what they‘re trying to do and for the fact that they‘re trying to move forward, and not be taken in by them and not be naïve, but have the attitude of appreciating the good things. Have the attitude of being eager to believe the best in a person, but not being silly about it. Otherwise we can be taken in by them and abused by them, and certainly that‘s never right in God‘s eyes and should never happen and we should never let it happen.
28 A froward man sows strife: and a whisperer separates chief friends.
Another disgusting individual. A perverse individual just goes around sowing strife. “You know what she said about you? Yes, she said that about you. Then you know what he did? Yeah, he did that. You know how he feels about you? Yeah, he feels that way.” And then if we don‘t check it out and if we‘re not careful to prove whether or not it‘s true, we can begin having very bad feelings toward that person. We can begin to carry grudges. We can begin to really feel like that individual is a bad person. And maybe they never even said that, maybe they never even did that, maybe they never even thought about that. So don‘t believe rumor, don‘t believe gossip, don‘t believe people who go around sowing strife. Check it out and get the facts and get the truth for yourself.
28 —a whisperer separates—
The best of friends. Maybe it‘s a husband and wife, or maybe it‘s two brothers, or maybe it‘s two lifelong friends, and someone starts whispering, “You know what he did? You know what he said? You know what he thought? You know what he said about you? He said this about you and he said that about you, and she said this about her and she said that about her.” First thing you know, even though it‘s not true or even though it‘s true and shouldn‘t have been said, here you have lifelong friends who have a tremendous bond with one another falling out and falling apart from one another and walking away from one another, and the friendship is destroyed or the marriage is destroyed or the family is torn apart.
What a disgusting attitude and a disgusting practice! And yet you have people like that, and it‘s best to stay away from them and not get involved with them. And if they try to pull these stunts on you or on me, check out the whole situation. Get the facts before you reach a conclusion, and inevitably you will find that they are not telling the whole story or they‘re only partially telling the truth or they‘re just lying all the way through. So don‘t judge others without getting the facts.
29 A violent man entices his neighbor, and leads him into the way that is not good.
But you see, his neighbor shouldn‘t have allowed himself to be enticed by a violent man. And we have to be on guard not to be. It‘s easy for a violent man to make a case that “Well, you ought not take that from that person. Come on. Let‘s go get him” or “This person cheated me or this person charged too much, or that individual over there is the one who stole your kid‘s bike or keys to your car or broke into your house.” Well is it true or is it not true? That‘s what you‘ve got to watch because you can end up running with a violent man and end up letting him lead you into the way that is not good. Be careful about who you believe and who you respond to. Get the facts.
30 He shuts his eyes to devise froward things: moving his lips he brings evil to pass.
He just sits and kind of meditates on what he can do next that will be evil, and then he starts talking, and that brings the plan to pass. It‘s just incredible the way some people think. In some cases, it‘s a criminal mind. In other cases, it‘s just a self–absorbed evil mind that just likes to come up with painful things, vandalism, and just likes to hurt other people and then proceeds to talk about what to do and it ends up coming to pass. But we have God‘s protection in matters like that if we‘re walking with Him and looking to Him.
31 The hoary head—
or the silvery head or the gray head
31 —is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.
This is a principle that‘s just going by the wayside in our society today. It‘s clear in the Bible in more places than one that we are to respect the elder. We‘re to respect old people. We‘re to stand up for them. Why not say “Yes, sir” to them and “Yes, ma‘am” to them? Why not get up and let them have the chair on the bus or the chair in the waiting room or the chair in your home? Show them some respect. They‘re not perfect. Who‘s perfect? But look at what they‘ve lived through in their lives. That gray hair and those decades of years means that they have had a lot of experience, a lot of trials, a lot of tests, a lot of set backs, a lot of pain, a lot of suffering–and they know a lot. And we‘d do good to respect them, to honor them, and to listen to them.
And yet nowadays, one of the problems in our society is that kids as they get older begin to abuse their parents, neglect their parents, and even beat up on their parents. Not everybody and not all kids, but all too many are starting to do that. What a despicable thing in God‘s eyes and what a despicable thing in our society. We need to respect our grandmothers and our grandfathers and our fathers and our mothers and our uncles and our aunts and our older neighbors and older people wherever we go. Respect them and care for them. And let them go first and open the door for them and help them across the street. Because when you think about the experience and the wisdom and the knowledge that has accumulated over the years, then that gray hair should be a crown of glory to an individual like that.
Now, of course, some elderly people, I‘ve seen a few but not many, can be old curmudgeons. They can be rebellious, they can be selfish, they can be hateful, they can even be violent. So it does say:
31 —if it be found in the way of righteousness.
Even elderly people are supposed to do the right thing, and many that I know certainly do that.
32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city.
You see that. If we have our emotions in control and we are not victims of our anger and of our lust and of our impulses, but rather we practice temperance and we practice self control through the power of God‘s holy spirit and following God‘s word, and instead of making rash statements and carrying out impulsive actions, we think about it and we direct it and control it and make it count–do you know in God‘s eyes that is more admirable and that is greater and better than someone who is so powerful, so mighty, so cunning, so fearless that he can actually on his own and by himself take a city? It‘s a matter of what values we go by. Do we look to the values of men, which would say, “Oh I admire that guy, he whipped everybody!” Or do we go by the values of God, which says “I admire that lady, she has tremendous character and she doesn‘t go around losing her temper and spouting off and doing silly things, and so therefore she‘s better than the mighty” or
32 —he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city.
That‘s a tremendous goal for true Christians to aim for and to live their life according to, if we really want to experience the abundant life, the life that God offers to us. We will build character, we will bring our impulses and our emotions under control and we will yield to God and walk with Him and be better than the mighty and rule our spirits through the power of His spirit and therefore be greater than he that takes a city.
33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing—
or the whole decision or outcome
33 —thereof is of the Lord.
We don‘t cast lots today. We have God‘s holy spirit to guide us. We have God‘s word to direct us. We have counsel to put together in order to reach the right decision. There were times in the Old Testament where a decision had to be made, and also in the early part of the New Testament, and therefore then God would guide that decision by the casting of lots and He would guide how the lots came out and therefore then the decision He wanted would be made.
Now, what are these lots and how did it all work? I don‘t really know for sure and I don‘t think anybody else really knows for sure. There are ideas, there are possibilities, but when it‘s all said and done, it‘s still just an idea and a possibility. The main point in verse 33 is this: God guides the whole process of decision making and outcome, no matter what is happening, regarding walking with Him and living His way of life if we look to Him and ask Him to do so.
We‘ll stop there and begin in Chapter 17 next time.
This is Charles Bryce with the Enduring Church of God.
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