Skip to Main Content

Proverbs Lesson 9: 4.11-27

SSL 9 - Proverbs 14:8-15 - LIVING WISELY

LAST WEEK: In Prov. 8:6-16, Solomon introduced us to Lady Wisdom, who is depicted as wisdom personified. Here are the six main points the Lady taught us:
(1) If you ever expect to walk in God's wisdom you must learn to listen.
(2) Before we can have godly discernment, we must move past our own human wisdom.
(3) The value gained from God's wisdom comes simply from seeing things the way God sees them.
(4) When we're walking in God's wisdom, prudence will guide us to use sound discretion.
(5) Christians sometimes fall short on wisdom because they fail to even consider whether the counsel
they receive is either godly or wicked.
(6) The wisdom of great leaders who lead great nations comes from fear of God and the inspired
instructions of His Word.

THIS WEEK: Proverbs 14 has no general theme but contains many wise sayings that contrast a particular concept with its opposite, what Bibles scholars refer to as "chiastic pairs," e.g., patience with impatience, the wise with the foolish, and others deal with various topics such as witnesses, emotions, fear of the Lord, charity, and a king. Our section in today's text contains many well-known verses that contrast the approach of the wise and careful man with that of a man who is foolish and the naïve. We'll learn that prudent men recognize that appearances can be deceptive-that a person's exterior may not match the state of his heart.

Read Prov. 14:8-9 - THE SENSE OF THE WISE AND THE DECEIT OF FOOLS

8 The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way, But the foolishness of fools is deceit.
9 Fools mock at sin, But among the upright there is good will.

v. 8: "The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way, But the foolishness of fools is deceit" - In this proverb Solomon tells us that there's a huge difference between wise, sensible people and fools. For example, sensible people take nothing for granted. Instead, they are careful to examine, evaluate, and confirm all things. They make sure they know what they should be doing, the risks involved on it, and the best way to accomplish it. In short, they "understand their way." They are not deceived but have a godly plan and the means to execute it.

Fools, however, deceive themselves, and their foolishness arises from their misinformed minds. They make choices by gut feelings, by habit, by peer pressure, by trial and error, and by worldly standards based on human wisdom. Life simply happens to them. They really don't understand life or the right way to live it. Self-deceit is a terrible thing. It's the worst error any person can make. It's is inevitably the path to destruction.

v. 9: "Fools mock at sin, But among the upright there is good will" - In this proverb, Solomon reveals an elementary truth of godly wisdom: Sin is not a joke. Only fools think so. Although sin is the worst enemy of mankind, we live in a world that laughs at it, yes? Fools think they can do whatever they like, whatever feels good. They may call it free will, the right to be me, the right to be my own boss and make my own rules, or whatever. No matter what they call it, it's still ignorant rebellion against god. They are on a path that will end in the endless lake of fire (Rev. 20:15).

Upright and godly people fear sin and hate what God hates (Prov. 8:13, last week). They run from it, stay clear of it, and grieve when they fall short. An upright person who walks in God's wisdom, who hates sin and avoids it with all their mind and heart, will experience God's good will and blessings. Though they sin at times in their human frailty, they are quick to repent and confess those
sins and receive God's forgiveness.

SOLOMON SAYS 1: Wise and sensible people make well-informed choices, while fools deceive themselves into making misinformed choices. Sensible people take nothing for granted. Instead, they are careful to examine, evaluate, and confirm all things. Fools, however, make choices by gut feelings, by habit, by peer pressure, by trial and error, and by worldly standards based on human wisdom. Life simply happens to them. Godly people hate and fear sin, do their best to stay clear of it, and grieve when they fall short. Fools laugh at sin and fail to see the path to destruction.

Read Prov. 14:10 - NO ONE AMONG MEN KNOWS YOUR HEART

10 The heart knows its own bitterness, And a stranger does not share its joy.

v. 10: This proverb contains a profound observation by Solomon about human existence. Paul confirmed it when he said, "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God." (1 Cor. 2:11). Every person is a unique individual with feelings, both negative and positive, that are unknown to others. No friend fully knows your feelings, no matter how sympathetic and caring they may be. The combination of factors and life experiences that form your feelings are much different from those of others. Only you truly understand your sadness and joy. Others who care about you may think they know you well, but they truly don't understand things as you understand them. And for you to sympathize with others and help them, you must slow down and look a lot deeper.

Careful study will reveal at least two lessons from this observation: First, we must accept that others can't really grasp either our grief or our happiness, which can lead to confusion and misunder-standings. We need to be patient and forgiving toward them. Second, the opposite is true: we sometimes are unable to know how to sympathize with or comfort others. When we encounter intense feelings and unexpected behavior, we should be forgiving towards them. Wisdom tells us to make allowances due a person's individuality. God didn't make us all from the same mold.

SOLOMON SAY 2: As unique individuals, no one can truly understand us. We must accept that others can't really grasp either our grief or our happiness, which can lead to confusion and misunderstandings. We need to be patient and forgiving toward them. Likewise, we sometimes are unable to know how to sympathize with or comfort others and must be forgiving of unexpected reactions from them.

Read Prov. 14:11-13 - THE TENT OF THE UPRIGHT, THE WAY THAT "SEEMS" RIGHT, AND LAUGHTER AND GRIEF

11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed, But the tent of the upright will flourish.
12 There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
13 Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief.

v. 11: "The house of the wicked will be destroyed, But the tent of the upright will flourish" - You have to step back on this proverb and really ponder the comparison Solomon is making here. A "house" and "tent" can be figurative expressions for the people-the families-who inhabit them. A house is a solid permanent structure, while a tent is temporary. The wicked man who builds a magnificent mansion as a testimony to his wealth and influence, thinks it will last forever, but like everything else in this world, it ultimately deteriorates and disappears (e.g., Blackcat), and when he dies, he suffers the judgment of God. And because the wicked man failed to teach his family to be followers of God, they too will perish in the judgment-nothing he built lasted. Although the upright man and his family live in a somewhat impermanent tent, they will find favor with God and be blessed. To take this idea a step further, as Christians, we know that we are only temporary residents in a dying world that holds nothing permanent for us, yes? Paul told us, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20).

v. 12 "There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death" - The key word of this proverb is "seems." This goes back to what we covered in v. 8, about people who make decisions on what "seems" right to them, which are based on factors like gut feelings, habits, peer pressure, trial and error, or standards based on human reasoning and wisdom. This human trait was first demonstrated by Eve in the garden. Although she knew what God had commanded concerning the forbidden fruit, the serpent deceived her by getting her to focus on her human reasoning rather than God's (Gen. 3:1-7). The Bible warns us repeatedly not to trust our human ways of thinking. Isaiah summarized nicely when, speaking for God, he said: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isa. 55:8-9). There's no safety in trusting our own hearts and minds-what might seem right to us on its face. We must (1) stop, (2) consider and (3) think, then carefully seek the mind and wisdom of God as revealed in His Word, through prayer and meditation, and godly counsel (don't forget that one!), and God will empower the Spirit in us to guide us the right way, to keep on the true path.

SOLOMON SAYS 3: We should never trust our human way of thinking. This human trait was first demonstrated by Eve in the garden. Although she knew what God had commanded concerning the forbidden fruit, the serpent deceived her by getting her to focus on her human reasoning rather than God's (Gen. 3:1-7). We must stop, consider and think, then carefully seek the mind and wisdom of God as revealed in His Word, through prayer and meditation, and godly counsel (don't forget that one!), and God will empower the Spirit in us to guide us the right way, to keep on the true path.

v. 13: "Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief" - This proverb actually connects to the idea of v. 10-that every one of us is a unique person with feelings, both negative and positive, that are unknown to others. It continues to develop the distinction between outward appearances and the inner reality. For example, laughter can mask sadness. Because people frequently don't share their innermost feelings and thoughts, their facial expressions and even spoken words can be misleading. Laughter, the opposite of weeping, is the outward expression of an emotional reaction. And both laughter and joy can be momentary reactions that can last seconds or hours, but both will eventually fade and vanish. If a person's heart is sad, his or her grief
will resurface when the laughter and joy wears off. We've all experienced this at some time, yes?

Read Prov. 14:14-15 - BACKSLIDERS VS. THE GOOD MEN AND THE NAÏVE VS.THE SENSIBLE

14 The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied with his.
15 The naive believes everything, But the sensible man considers his steps.

v. 14: "The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied with his" - First, let's define "backslider," a term we Baptists like to use: The OT uses the term "backsliding" to describe those who have been near to God but have allowed sin to take them away from Him. In NT usage, it's referred to as "falling away," which is a term used to describe a process by which a Christian believer reverts to pre-salvation habits and falls back into sin when he or she turns away from God to pursue worldly things. We need to understand that a backslidden believer doesn't lose his or her salvation but will suffer the consequences of sin in this life and the loss of rewards in the next. Let's forget the common notion of backsliding: Leaving the faith to return to drugs, sex, or violence as a lifestyle-that's the extreme. The true source of backsliding is the heart. It's your heart that first slips away from the Lord. It can be subtle, like losing your spiritual joy, praying less, singing less, attending church less, becoming absorbed in earthly things, and becoming spiritually dull in general. They are weakened and often fearful, the Holy Spirit is quenched and grieved, and they've lost hold of the joyful confidence they once had. It's a sad, unhappy, and ultimately, very "unsatisfying" condition to be in. Backsliders often lead miserable lives because they are never satisfied or at peace with the life they are living.

In Biblical Hebrew, a "good man" (tov-ish) can be variously defined as a person who is pleasant, kind, and virtuous, or a person who seeks after justice and truth (Jer. 5:1). Although the backslider and the good man are very different in terms of character and lifestyle, they are similar in terms of both being "filled" and "satisfied' by the "ways" of their lives. The backslider's life is filled with bitterness and dissatisfaction, while the good man's life is filled with joy, peace, and content-ment. When C. H. Spurgeon preached sermon on this proverb, he used two pieces of a sponge as an illustration. He placed one piece in a bowl of polluted water and the other in a bowl of pure, crystal clear water, and each became filled the type of waster in which they had been placed. Do you see the parallel and distinction between these two types of lives?

SOLOMON SAYS 4: The true source of backsliding is the heart. It's your heart that first slips away from the Lord. It can be subtle, like losing your spiritual joy, praying less, singing less, attending church less, becoming absorbed in earthly things, and becoming spiritually dull in general. A backslider often miserable because they're never satisfied or at peace with the life they are living. In contrast, the "good man's" life is filled with joy, peace, and contentment.

v. 15: "The naive believe everything, But the sensible man considers his steps" - This proverb is designed for your safety and success. It's one of Solomon's best-memorize it! And it will save you a lot of grief. Today, we live in a precarious time. People are inclined to trust sound bites hey hear on TV instead of sound reasoning. The information explosion from multiple sources bombards us with new data every day. Telemarketers, mail order catalogs, advertisements, infomercials, pop-up ads, and the Internet are constantly throwing opinions, suggestions, and products at you. Fortunately, God inspired Solomon to help us with this memorable, 11-word saying.

First, let's define what Solomon means by a naïve or simple person: it's a a person who will believe anything or everything; he or she isn't discerning in general and isn't inclined to do the hard work of trying to determine right from wrong. We're living at a time when people who have convictions about moral absolutes are considered to be bigots or ignoramuses. It's popular and 'politically correct' to be open-minded and uncritical of what other people think or believe. Except when it comes to cashing a check when they're broke, getting a prescription filled when they're sick, or asking directions when they're lost, most people don't believe in absolutes. They insist that there's no such thing as objective truth. According to them, whatever "feels good" down inside is truth for you and no one has the right to criticize you for what you believe. Apply that philosophy to money, medicine, mechanics, or maps and see how successful you will be!

Skepticism is a virtue. Caution is a sign of carefulness. Demanding proof is wisdom. Only the foolish and stupid believe all they hear or read. A wise and successful person will examine things carefully, before he or she makes a decision. They understands the risks and rewards before choosing a course of action. They do absolutely nothing by mere chance or hope. The prudent are wise. They have discretion. They aren't gullible. They are highly skeptical of anything that sounds too good, too easy, or too neat. "That sounds too good to be true" is their motto. They aren't impressed by things in print, words by professed authorities on various topics, or testimonials from people they don't know. They demand evidence, and it must be proven and validated. If naïve people approve of something, the wise person is automatically suspicious of it. The majority opinion never impresses the wise. Parents need to teach their children to be skeptical about anything they see or hear outside of the home and the church.

SOLOMON SAYS 5: Since a naïve person doesn't bother with the hard work of try to determine right from wrong, he or she doesn't know the difference. These are people who believe in anything and everything. According to them, whatever "feels good" down inside is truth for them and nobody has the right to disagree with them over what do or don't believe. We're living at a day and time when people who have convictions about moral absolutes are considered to be bigots or ignoramuses. It's popular and 'politically correct' to be open-minded and uncritical of what other people think or believe. Christians who walk in God's wisdom aren't gullible, exercise sound discretion, and are skeptical toward any ideas that seem too good to be true. Neither are they impressed by what's considered to be the current "majority opinion." Parents need to be especially careful to teach their children to be skeptical about everything they see and hear outside of the home and the church.