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Proverbs 15.33-16.11 Notes

Prov. 15:33-16:11 - PLEASING GOD

33 The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.
1 The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives.
3 Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established.
4 The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil.
5 Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.
6 By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.
7 When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
8 Better is a little with righteousness Than great income with injustice.
9 The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.
10 A divine decision is in the lips of the king; His mouth should not err in judgment.
11 A just balance and scales belong to the LORD; All the weights of the bag are His concern.

OUTLINE: 15:33, 1-2. Plans, 3. Trust in God, 4. Everything has a purpose, 5. Haughtiness, 6. Atonement; Fear of God, 7. Enemies, 8. Righteousness, 9. Plans, 10. A king's judgment, 11. Honest weights

OVERVIEW: Verse 14:33 forms the starting place for the next chapter. The main text, Proverbs 16, is a collection thirty-three individual sayings. While the chapter does not seem to have a single theme other than what is pleasing to God, topics such as the king, haughtiness, God's relation to man, and speech play an important role. Verses 1-9 make a comparison between the plans of a man's heart and the sovereign direction of the LORD. Verse 10 concerns kings and rulers and represents the ideal, like David and v. 11 is a stand alone on God's absolute standards of honesty.

v. 33: The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.

The link between the fear of God and wisdom means we cannot possess wisdom if we recreate God in our own image. Too many people want to "tame" God into a non-threatening nobody. But, if we redefine the Lord as a god that makes us feel comfortable, a permissive "buddy" who exists simply to bless us and give us what we want, we will not fear Him in the way He deserves to be feared. The Lord God Almighty is far greater than that, and the fear of the Lord begins when we see Him in His majesty and power (Revelation 4:11; Job 42:1-2) The Lord shows Job (and us) a glimpse of His power in Job 38-41 when He describes His absolute sovereignty over everything.

When the reality of God's true nature has caused us to fall down in worship, we are then in the right position to gain wisdom. Wisdom is merely seeing life from God's perspective and responding accordingly. Wisdom is a priority, and we are told to seek it above all else (Proverbs 3:13; 16:16). Proverbs is known as the wisdom book, and the entire second chapter gives a detailed explanation of the value of gaining wisdom.

Until our hearts are in a right relationship with God, we are unable to have the "wisdom that comes from heaven" (James 3:17). Without the fear of the Lord, we may gain knowledge of earthly things and make some practical choices for this life, but we are missing the one ingredient that defines a wise person (Psalm 14:1; Exodus 20:3; 34:14; Jeremiah 25:6; Matthew 22:37). In the parable of the rich farmer, the rich man had a "wise" and practical plan for his profits, but God said to him, "You fool!" because the farmer's plans were made with no thought of God and eternity (Luke 12:16-21).

Without the fear of the Lord, we make final decisions based on our faulty human understanding (Prov 3:5-6). When we incorporate the fear of the Lord into every moment of our lives, we make decisions based upon His approval. We live with the knowledge that the Creator of the universe is intimately involved in our every move. He sees, knows, and evaluates all our choices, and we will answer to Him (Psalm 139:1-4).

v. 1: The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.

The "plans of the heart." This is one of the Proverbs that is not universally applicable, but is applicable to people who living a godly lifestyle, or it can be considered an "ideal" proverb, setting forth the ideal situation, not the situation that always happens here on earth. There are a number of proverbs like this in Proverbs (cp. Prov. 16:3, 7, 10; 18:3; 20:8; 21:1; 22:6). The Hebrew word "plans" is maarak (מַעֲרָךְ), and it refers to an arrangement, plan, preparation. In this context, it conveys placing things in careful order or setting them next to each other for comparison, as we do when making plans. The "plans of the heart" are a person's internal thoughts and intentions, which are devised according to the person's will and desires.

The plans "of the heart" that people make eventually come out in what they say (Matt. 12:34; 15:18; Mark 7:14-23; Luke 6:45), but godly people want and intend to say things that are godly and agree with the written Word and God's heart for mankind. Given that, the "answer of the tongue" they are seeking ultimately comes from God. This Proverb does not imply that a person's response is outside of the speakers free will as if what the person said was somehow controlled by God; rather it is saying that a proper answer can only be found in the wisdom that God gives. The proverb does not discourage human planning but cautions that a person should not be self-reliant or overly-confident in their own understanding and abilities but plan and speak in a way that reflects the wisdom of God (cp. Prov. 3:5-7). Doing that requires seeking wisdom and making the effort to be godly in thought and action. This proverb invites the willing reader to actively seek God in how he might devise godly plans and how to speak in such a way that those plans are articulated in a loving and godly way so they will eventually come to fruition and be put into action.

"of the heart." Biblically, the "heart" can refer to the mind, the thinking, of the core of one's inner life, and much more. Here it means the plans a person forms in his mind or the depths of his mind, or in the core of his inner self. [For more on "heart," see commentary on Prov. 16:21, "sense"].
"tongue." The use of "tongue" is the figure of speech synecdoche of the part, putting the part for the whole, where the part, the tongue, is put for the whole, i.e., the whole person. The answer the person gives is from Yahweh because wisdom and godliness are from Yahweh.

v. 2: All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives.

"person." The Hebrew text literally reads, "man," iysh (#0376 אִישׁ pronounced "eesh"), which most literally refers to a man, a male in contrast to woman, a husband, or a man opposed to an animal or God. However, iysh can also refer more generally to a person or human being, inclusive of both men and women. [For more on the meaning of iysh, see commentary on Proverbs 2:12, "the one"].
"motives." The Hebrew text reads "spirits," and this is one of the good examples of when "spirit" can mean thoughts, attitudes, or emotions. The NASB has "motives," which is certainly one of the meanings, but it is important that the student of the Bible learn about the flexible use of "spirit" and begin to think of it that way, because God also "weighs" whether a person has holy spirit or the Satanic spirits that control him.

We see here again, that man's deeds are not always what the man really is. God looks into our heart and sees what our intents are. He judges the heart and not the deeds. The spirit of man is what we really are. In other words, while man can be self-deceived, God determines his true motives. This body is just a house we live in for a short time. Secular humanism teaches that we are the center of everything and that we should follow our own desires, but God says that leads to destruction. The flesh desires are what is right in our own sight. The spirit wants to please God and is truly the thing to do.

We can justify ourselves to the point we really think we are clean in spite of our sins. We will use "all humanity" as our excuse, admitting we are sinners "just like everyone else," but not wanting to admit specific sins or faults lest we have to overcome them. God knows all men have sinned and fall short of His glory, but He is only interested in our repentance (change), overcoming, and growth, not our excuses. "Everyone is doing it" does not justify our personal sin. God will forgive only as we repent.

v. 3: Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established.

"plans." The Hebrew word machashabah (מַחֲשָׁבָה), can refer to a person's thoughts, or what he thinks about, that is "plans." In this context, it seems "plans" fits best, as also most modern versions say as well.
"will be established." This is one of the "ideal" verses in the Bible that is often true but not always true. This promise would be fulfilled here on earth today if we lived in a godly world with godly people, but we do not. The Devil is the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19), and there are many evil people, so the plans of godly people are often foiled. This promise will only be fully fulfilled in the future.

Question: "How can we commit our work to the Lord and have our plans established?"
Answer: Proverbs 16:3 states, "Commit your work to the LORD, / and your plans will be established"
(ESV). This wonderful verse speaks of our responsibility to serve God and the result of discharging our duty faithfully. The first verb, commit, is a word that, in Hebrew, literally means "to roll." Other passages such as Genesis 29:3 and Psalm 22:8-9 likewise use the idea of "rolling" something to the Lord. The idea is that we completely give something over to God in dependence upon Him. When we "commit" our work to the Lord, we offer everything we do completely to Him. The Hebrew syntax also reveals the idea that we commit our work to the Lord in order that our plans will be established. We must do the first part if we expect God to fulfill the second part. If we completely depend upon God in our work, He will "establish" our plans. That is, He will "bring about" or "cause to happen" our plans. We can expect God to bring our work to fruition in God's way and in God's time when we depend on Him in our efforts. Part of committing our work to God, of course, is seeking and following God's will; when our work aligns with God's will, then success will follow.

We need to remember that Proverbs, as a literary form, communicates general life principles and not exact promises. In other words, we can generally expect God to bless our work when we operate according to His ways in dependence upon Him. However, this does not mean we will never lose a job or have trouble in our work. Instead, we can expect God to fulfill His promise of Rom. 8:28, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

v. 4: The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil.

NOTE: This verse has generated a lot of disagreement between Calvinists (limited atonement) and Freewill advocates (unlimited atonement, saying there are no predestined but that Christ died for the whole world).

"The LORD has made everything for its own purpose." The Hebrew word translated "purpose" is ma'aneh (מַעֲנֶה), and in this context it means "an answer, or a response." Here in Prov. 16:4, "answer" is continuing the line of thinking that occurred three verses earlier in Prov. 16:1, which says that ultimately, "answers" come from God. In some contexts, the Hebrew word ma'aneh can mean "purpose," which is why some translations read "purpose" (cp. HCSB; ESV; NASB)..

God designed everything in such a manner that His ultimate plans and purposes for His creation will be fulfilled. Part of God's plan and purpose was that His created beings were to be righteous and loving to both Him and to each other. Calvinist Perspective: Many theologians and translators are Calvinistic in their thinking, and so while they assert that God creates all things for His own plans and purposes, they do not include genuine free will as part of God's plans and purposes. Instead, they believe that God makes both good and evil; good people so He can bless them and wicked people so He can destroy them. Others, non-Calvinists, assert that Proverbs 16:4 is not propounding divine causality. It is not saying that God makes everything on earth-both good and evil-for His purpose, including making evil things just so he can destroy them, as if He was a child who constructs a castle of building-blocks just so he can knock them down. Rather, Proverbs 16:4 fits into the general scope of Scripture in portraying God as a loving, righteous God, who allows people to make their own "freewill" decisions while stating that He has an answer for whatever choice people make.

"Even the wicked for the day of evil." The word we translate "evil" is the common Hebrew word for "evil," which is ra ( רַע), which means "evil," but has a range of meanings that also includes calamity, disaster, injury, misfortune, distress, and misery. The phrase "a day of evil" can refer to any day of disaster or calamity. In fact, Proverbs primarily addresses the present life of the reader in the sense that there is a retribution and justice to be expected for wickedness now-even though often no truly righteous retribution seems to occur in this life. But Prov 16:4 certainly also has an ultimate reference to the Day of Judgment as the day of disaster, injury, and misery for the wicked. The Day of Judgment is not "evil," in the sense that it is bad or wrong. Instead, it is an evil day for the wicked, because God's judgment will be disastrous for them with much distress and misery. The Lord Jesus said there would be "sobbing and gnashing of teeth" (Mt. 24:51). In summary, Prov 16:4 says that God has made sure that there is a godly answer for everything that people do, and even wicked people, who sometimes seem to get away with doing so much evil on earth, will receive an
answer from God.

v. 5: Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.

Question: "What does the Bible say about pride and arrogance?"
Answer: The words arrogance, arrogant, proud, and haughty are mentioned over 200 times in the NIV Bible. And in practically every occurrence, it is a behavior or attitude detested by God. The Bible tells us those who are arrogant and have a haughty heart are an abomination to Him: "Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD" (Prov 16:5a). Of the seven things the Bible tells us that God hates, "haughty eyes" ["a proud look," NKJV] is the first one listed (Proverbs 6:16-19). Jesus Himself said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him," and then goes on to list the thirteen characteristics of those who are outside of God's favor, with arrogance being considered alongside sexual immorality and murder (Mark 7:20-23).
"Assuredly, he will not be unpunished." The Hebrew text uses a custom that would not clearly communicate the meaning of the verse. It more literally reads, "hand to hand he will not go unpunished." This phrase illustrates the ancient custom of striking hands or shaking hands to seal an agreement (cp. Prov. 11:15, 21). In the USA today a "gentleman's agreement" is still sealed with just a handshake. The point of the proverb is that even if evil, arrogant people agree to support each other and shake hands on it, they will not avoid being punished. They will suffer the consequences of their actions in this life or the next life, and even perhaps both. God's Word promises that the arrogant will be punished (Prov 16:5; Isa 13:11). Indeed, one can imagine Lucifer swaggering before God in heaven, claiming his own greatness before his fall. Lucifer's pride led to eternal punishment: the fall from his exalted heavenly position (Isa 14:12-15) and his consignment to the lake of fire (Rev 20:10). The behavior of the evil one is not to be imitated by a believer in Christ (John 8:39-47).

v. 6: By lovingkindness (mercy) and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.

If a person is ever going to change, he must confront his fault, since there is no magic bullet! The proverb's advice can be understood this way: By God's mercy and truth and by our recognition and use of truth, iniquity will be purged because we fear God and submit to Him. One commentator renders the last line of the proverb as, "By loyalty and faithfulness one escapes evil." Another translates it as, "By one's loyalty and faithfulness to God's truth one will escape evil." "Evil" implies the second death. Living the truth does not forgive sin, but it does help to purge the mind of its habitual focus on sin.

The surest way to live is when God's mercy and truth combine to purify your life. These two aspects of godliness come together to make men perfect. And the motivation to seek and practice both of them is the fear of the LORD, which compels men to forsake their sins. It all starts by having a deeply embedded fear of God, which is the very beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Pr 1:7; 9:10; Job 28:28; Ps 111:10); it is the foundation for living a godly life (Pr 15:16; 20:28; 23:17; 28:14); it is the whole duty of man (Deut 10:12; Eccl 5:7; 8:12; 12:13-14; Micah 6:7-8). It brings riches, honor, and life to surpass other men (Pr 22:4; Eccl 7:18).
The fear of God drives men to seek His approval in every part of life. It drives them to hate and turn from sin

We see in this purging a step that Christians must take. We are all saved by faith in Jesus Christ, but we must walk in that saved condition. This purging is the doing away with the sins of the old life. God's mercy and truth teach us a better way of life. It is our obligation to walk in newness of life (the better way). We must destroy (purge), the old habits. If we truly love the Lord, we will have reverent fear of Him. We will be continually fearful of falling back into evil. This fear will not be because we are afraid of His punishment, but because we love Him and want to please Him.

v. 7: When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

"When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD." The word "man" or "person" in some translations, is iysh (אִישׁ ), which most literally refers to a man. Nevertheless, it can also be used to refer to men and women, and it makes sense to translate it in a gender-neutral way in this context. A man who is pleasing the Lord is living a peaceable life. He is doing unto others as he would have them do unto him. He is loving his neighbor as himself. This type of life leaves no room for argument. It is hard to be at war with someone who loves you. We see also, that those who love the Lord are blessed of Him. But, this general rule does not mean that we will not receive persecution from some of those enemies

Should we believe this to mean that if my ways please God, I will never have an enemy? No! That is how too many people view this proverb. But the proverb itself assumes that we will have enemies when we are walking with the Lord. Then what does this proverb mean - and how can we know when God has done this on our behalf. This passage teaches us that when our ways are pleasing to God that God does some wonderful things in our lives. He takes those who are our enemies and makes them to be at peace with us. It does not mean that we don't have enemies, it means that they are at peace with us instead of warring or seeking to destroy us. They may still be our enemy, but they will choose peace rather than to be in open conflict with us.

The stories of this are many in our society. J. Vernon McGee speaks of a man who hated him, but who was heard saying to others, "I hate the man, but he preaches the Word of God." That kind of thing is what this proverb is saying to us. The world will continue to hate us - but due to our lives being pleasing to God, they will see godly character in our lives. I know of situations where the ungodly came to the aid of believers not because they agreed with our theology or teaching, but simply because they knew the character of the person and vouched for them.

v. 8: Better is a little with righteousness Than great income with injustice.

"Better is a little with righteousness." What is conspicuous about this verse is what it does not say. The world is so upside down that the righteous can live without being blessed by God with abundance, while God allows the unjust to get and enjoy great revenue. Although God seems at times to be absent, we can rest assured He will eventually bring justice and equity to earth.

Solomon had more money and power than Bill Gates can imagine. He had 1,000 wives. The book of Ecclesiastes records his search for man's purpose in life. He concluded his investigation by writing that fearing God and keeping His commandments is man's whole duty (Eccl 12:13-14). He wrote the proverb above, because he found wealth to be empty and frustrating, and he knew that every man will give an account for his conduct on earth. Righteousness must be a higher priority than even great revenue. Pleasing God should be more important than great wealth. If it is, you will make decisions to be right rather than to be rich. You will use Sundays for the Lord. You will be perfectly honest. You will avoid wicked men, no matter how friendly or successful. You will give liberally to the Lord and the poor. You will save, avoid debt, and hate suretiship. You will spend extra time in confession, meditation, prayer, and self-examination before more time at work.

Since wealth is temporary (you can't take it with you) and subject to decay and since eternal rewards last forever and thus have far greater worth, we are wiser to pursue righteousness even if it will cost us the chance to get rich than to seek out lots of money by ways of corruption and injustice.

"Than great income with injustice." Someone who has great wealth (income) but little righteousness is worse off than the righteous man or woman who has little materially in this world. Vast income without justice can never give a peaceful conscience, freedom from guilt and sin, the love and joy of God, and a hundred other things the righteous enjoy. It isn't that the only two options in life are to have either little with righteousness or great income with injustice. Comparing the two options, the first is clearly a lot better.

v. 9: The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.

"The mind of man plans his way." A man's outward actions have their beginning within him, in his heart. We often hear regret and frustration from those who want to improve their health or to lose some weight. Yet, for a person's health to change for the better, he or she must begin by preparing him/herself and building strong convictions from within. How a person thinks, combined with what he thinks about, produces the conditions and the activities we see in him or her outwardly. Ultimately, God is sovereign and in total control, and His plans cannot be thwarted. Some rebel and go against His desires, but others seek out what He wants and submit to His desires. Being directed by God is a privilege and a protection (Rom. 8:14), a chance to bear spiritual fruit. To only have the hope of being smart and using human wisdom to make plans is a weak foundation, but to know that God is at work and to align ourselves with Him brings great comfort.

"But the LORD directs his steps." This proverb is very similar to Proverbs 16:1 in that it is an "ideal proverb," expressing what happens in the life of a truly godly person. It is not a universal proverb in that it is not what happens in the life of ungodly people who reject God. There are a number of "ideal proverbs" like this in Proverbs (cp. Prov. 11:31; 13:25; 15:6; 16:1, 3, 7, 10; 18:3; 20:8; 21:1; 22:6). The book of Proverbs has many different kinds of proverbs, and some are universal and apply to everyone, while others, such as Proverbs 16:1 and 16:9, are written with the godly, humble, and obedient people in mind, to help them understand what happens in their life. The godly person "devises" or plans what he will do in life, but he is working to please God and live a godly life, so God is directing and guiding him in what he is planning, which is why Yahweh can "prepare his steps." God doesn't control the person, but the godly person actively seeks the wisdom and guidance of God in living his life, so God is actively preparing the person's steps.

The LORD prepares the steps of the godly person in many different ways: for one thing, the godly person makes a diligent effort to think and act in a godly manner; a manner that conforms to God's Word and His character, such as the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). God also prepares a person's steps by direct guidance and by bringing wise counselors into the person's life. Also, God works behind the scenes such that the person who is seeking to be godly learns from examples in the world around him. In the end, the godly person will find that he makes plans concerning the life he desires to live, but he finds as he lives day to day that God has prepared that road for him.

v. 10: A divine decision is in the lips of the king; His mouth should not err in judgment.

In order to understand this verse, we first need to grasp that Solomon is writing this to kings and rulers. The Word of God clearly states that no authority exists except that which is from God. Yet, this does not guarantee that all rulers will be godly or Christian. God is not interested in an earthly kingdom (Jesus said as much in the gospels) but in saving a people for Himself - and for His coming kingdom in heaven. Thus the natural flow of sin and rebellion will even affect the social institutions of this world and the governments that rule over the affairs of men. When Israel rejected God as king and cried out for a human king, "like all the other nations," God warned them what this would bring. He warned them of the excesses and the danger of having one "man" over them. As a man, this king was just as vulnerable to sin as anyone else. This is why God also instructed the king to write out a copy of the Law by hand - so that he would be reminded to obey the Lord and do according to everything that was written in God's Law. The Bible does not teach that kings have divine right or the ability to speak for God or to be unaccountable for their decisions. Kings of the world might think that they are all powerful, but they are ultimately subject to the sovereign will of God. They are very much accountable for the position which God has allowed them to have, and wisdom would acknowledge that reality and seek God for wisdom in rendering judgments and decisions. Governmental authorities should not err in their decision-making, for the consequences are far reaching. The kings of the earth are not the ultimate sovereign, but God does intervene and hold kings to account. Some intervention happens on earth (e.g. Dan 4), while other consequences are left for eternity. Christians are called to pray for those in authority, including earthly political leaders, so that they will lead rightly and let people live in peace and according to godliness.

Every leader on this earth should have this verse etched into his psyche. We have those today who say that there should be a separation of church and state. What that actually means is that out government cannot establish a national denomination, like the Church of England (or international in the case of the Roman church in the middle ages) - or a national church run according to the dictates of the government. But what they have done is enforce the establishment clause of the first amendment, but have completely ignored the fact that there is also a protection clause. They are never to prohibit the free exercise of religion - and our founders meant the Christian religion in particular. They said that a man was not fit to run for office if he was not a Christian. Our founders said that this nation was predicated on our ability to obey the 10 commandments. They knew that if God's Law reigned in our hearts (realizing it needed to rein in our hearts) that a plethora of human laws would not be necessary. We've rejected such things - and as a result - our leaders have rejected God's ways and Word. It really should be no great shock to us that the nation has and is declining. The worst aspect of this is that our president and Congress no longer look to God's Word for leadership. They think that they know what to do from their own thoughts and ways. This can lead no where except to disaster in the end.

v. 11: A just balance and scales belong to the LORD; All the weights of the bag are His concern.

"A just balance" in the Hebrew literally means "stones." For most of history, the weights used by merchants for their scales were stones. Metal was too rare or expensive. The merchants most often had a sack of some kind to carry the stones in. Occasionally they would carry them, if their weight and number were small, in the folds of their garment. God, unlike humans, will not permit false weights. In all of God's dealings, we will see exactness; and He expects that from us, as well. God established weights and measures for His people, and He does not like for anyone to change them. Much more is taught on this in Exodus. God detests dishonesty.

"All the weights of the bag are His concern." Should a Quarter Pounder weigh four ounces? Should a gallon of milk contain 128 fluid ounces? How about a gallon of gasoline? Do your answers change based on whether you are buying or selling? The great God of heaven expects total honesty in all transactions. Do you feel strongly about these questions? Who says that measurements are important? And who is going to do anything about it, if measurements are not made properly? Should you be able fudge your business transactions a little if no one gets hurt badly? More than $7 trillion worth of economic transactions take place in the United States each year based on measuring devices. Just a 1% error could amount to over $70 billion, greater than the annual budget of many nations. Small errors can add up to big consequences. A typical convenience store sells 100,000 gallons of gasoline a month. If the owner adjusts his pumps to 127 fluid ounces per gallon, which you could not detect even with measuring cups, he could pocket an extra $20,000 per year. Who would know? God would and God hates stealing and demand that business dealings are done in honesty. Just as He is just, we are to imitate Him by being fair in all aspects of life, including money.