I have about 60 verses out of Proverbs that I review regularly every two weeks. I plan to share some of these here, along with my commentary or thoughts regarding them. As with other memory verses, I like to keep in mind why I would select them to memorize in the first place. If I do not state that with any of the following verses, I hope that it would just be obvious from reading the verses. I would trust that my comments would not be taken that I feel these words exclusively cover the verses, but that my words will stimulate the reader to think of their own applications for these verses.
1:7 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
How appropriate this verse is for the beginning of our "Pondering Proverbs." The place to begin our search for what is valuable in life is with a strong reverence for the Lord. If we have this reverence we will obtain this knowledge, wisdom, and instruction, leading us to the greatest treasure ever, the realization of knowing God well ourselves. "...he that cometh to God must believe that God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that deligently seek Him." Heb 11:6b. "And this is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." Jn 17:3
3:5,6 "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths."
This goes against our natural grain to want to be our own boss, our own leader, to do things our own way, and chose our own path. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end there of are the ways of death." Pro 14:12; 16:25 If we would only learn to trust the Lord, He will lead us on the path that is right for our eternal good.
4:23 "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
We should "guard" our "thoughts" all the time, for our thoughts will greatly impact how we act.
6:16-19 "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him; 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discored among brethren."
Not only should I love the things God loves, I should hate the things God hates, and avoid being or doing what He hates. Most people may not shed others blood, but the other six are very common and natural for the fallen nature. Sowing discored may not be high on the list, being listed last, but as Jas 4:11 says "speak not evil one of another, brethren," we may be sowing discord when criticizing others. Notice that both lying and the very similar bearing false witness speaking lies are given. Oh how often we lie for various reasons. The serpent lied to Eve, and Jesus declareds Himself to be the Truth (Jn 14:6). May I be more like my current heavenly Father, than my former father (Jn 8:44).
6:25 "Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids."
In this sex and porn saturated world, with the devil walking about seeking whom he may devour (1Pe 5:8), this is a good verse to allow the Lord to speak to me to be on guard against the sexual temptations that come mostly through the T.V. and computer, though sometimes also through real people or even my own imagination.
6:27 "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?"
This is a warning not to let sexual passions (that are not between me and my wife) to be close to me or within me, otherwise I will "get burned", suffer pain spiritually, and possibly in other ways as well.
8:13 "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil;"
"Hate" is a rather strong term, yet that is exactly what God wants us to be and to do in relation to evil; He wants us to be haters of evil, to resist it strongly, persistently, and win over it completely. He doesn't want us to "tolerate" it either publicly or privately. We are to speak out against it, not quietly tolerate it. We are not to be unguard or lazy in either the privacy of our own homes, or in the privacy of our own thoughts. Evil is against us, and those that are evil hate the Christian, and would destroy us if they could. If we truly "fear" (worship) God with high energy from the core of our very being, we will HATE evil.
9:10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy (One) is understanding."
If we don't know God personally, and if we don't worship Him practically, we haven't even begun to be wise, but are unwise. To worship God practically (not just attend church or read the Bible, but to give Him the daily attention, obedience, and loving devotion we should), having an understanding of God and His ways through knowing Him personally, we are just beginning to be wise, and should be increasing in that wisdom as we continue to get to know God and HIs Word better.
10:19 "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise."
When someone really has nothing to say, they shouldn't say anything, but often they speak anyway, and say something vain, wrong, out of line, or that is sinful, against God's will. The wise thing to do, instead of the above, is to refrain from saying anything at all. This should be a time of remaining quiet, and silently either waiting on God, or silently asking Him to lead you in this silence or in how to proceed.
11:14 "Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety."
It has been said "There is safety in numbers.", and this is definitely true when the "numbers" are wise, spiritual, counsellors. It has also been said "Two heads are better than one." Though this can be argued, or need clarification, the point is there is an advantage in having more and better resources than just your own thoughts and experience. Whether it is a nation, or an individual, without the spiritual counsel of God's written Word being followed, that nation or individual will eventually fail in what our perfect God's perfect will has been for them. In David's foolish desire to seek revenge upon foolish Nabal (as recorded in 1Sa 25), David was spared from sinning foolishly by heeding the counsel of Nabal's wise wife, Abigail. There are so many occasions recorded in Scripture like this of occasions to either follow wise counsel or not. May we seek the counsel of God's Word, as well as heed the wise, spiritual counsellors that God may send us.
11:30 "...and he that winneth souls is wise."
Interesting that this is an O.T. verse rather than a N.T. verse after the gospels. "Winneth souls." This term is easily understood within the evangelical church of today, but is that what the Holy Spirit meant in Proverbs. In regards to today, we regard souls as "lost" if they are beyond the age of accountability and have not received Jesus as their Savior. To "win a soul" (to put it in very brief and simple terms) one shares the gospel's plan of salvation with them and leads them to pray to receive Jesus as their Savior. Why is that wise? First of all, just to know how to do it, and then to obey the Great Commission of Mt 28:19,20 would be considered wise. Secondly, to fulfill such an important ministry that is of the greatest concern to God would be considered wise. Thirdly, in "winning" souls there will be an even greater satisfaction of seeing these souls saved in and throughout eternity, than the satisfaction of experiencing this now in this life. Fourthly, God has a special reward for those that do this work, and how unwise it would be not to take advantage of the opportunity to receive this reward(s).
12:4 "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones."
Imagine that husband standing next to his wife in a crowd of people that know that she has various virtues. Maybe she speaks lovingly, in a noticably educated and informed way, free of profanity, malice, selfishess; and leaves her hearers in admiration of what she says. Imagine the good, acceptable pride that husband has, possibly even causing his face and head to radiate with an "almost" visible crown.
But imagine that same husband standing next to a wife that is only self-centered, has a foul mouth, and is always causing those around her to feel bad. That husband might feel like a man that is going through the pain of bone cancer.
12:10 "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast:
In regards to our relationship with animals, whether animals raised for food, work animals, pets, or just animals in general, to act towards them in a way that God considers right, we should think about that animal's life. First of all, they are a part of God's creation. That in itself gives them a certain value. Even the pests, vermin, disease carrying insects and the like we should eliminate, we can consider as reminders to the curse upon this earth that God tells us about in Gen 3:17. Something that reminds us of our sin, and what the Savior went through to save us from that sin has a teaching value if nothing else. In regards to pets and other animals we naturally value, we should treat them well, especially higher animals that experience emotions. We should care for the physical well being of animals, as well as the emotional well being. If we are their caregiver, we should learn what specific needs they have, and provide for those needs. Much could be said on this topic, but I trust the reader gets the idea.
12:15 "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise."
The fool has a tendancy to be self-centered, and think they know what is best, and that it is better than what someone else may think, and that they don't need anyone's help or advice. Others may point out something that is better than the fool's actions or thoughts, but the fool will not agree with this. They that will listen to counsel, advice, suggestions, etc., with an open mind, and realize others can have better ways of doing things and better ideas and understanding, and are open to turning from their own ways and own thinking to what is better, are wise indeed. To be able to admit this to others speaks even higher of this person's character.
12:25 "Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop; but a good word maketh it glad."
Our thoughts have a strong impact or influence on how our thoughts continue, on our emotions, and on our actions. Certain situations and circumstances may naturally cause us to be depressed, angry, or feel some other negative emotion. Sometimes it takes another person (whether someone talking to us, or our reading what someone has written) to snap us out of the negative and move us into thinking and feeling more positive. Sometimes we can do this for ourselves by just determining to either change our thought entirely, or changing our perspective about what has been influencing us. In either case, it is we that are on the receiving end. We should also be sensitive to others around us that have a need of being on the receiving end. If we sense "heaviness" in them, we can strive to give them a "good word" of encouragement, praise, exhortation, something to "make them glad." Keep in mind there may be times when it is right for a heart to "stoop"; times of sin, times of grief, times of oppresion. It is not good to stay in these times too long, but there may be times when they should not be left without proper consideration of what should be experienced during these times. Before leaving a grievious time that has been caused by sin, instead of a "good" word that makes us glad, we should grieve that sin, and repent of that sin. We should not cut times of grief too short, but let them work their proper course. We should not seek to be relieved of oppression, until we see what God wants us to learn of His will, character, and power during that time of oppression. Be sensitive to experiencing what God would have us experience, not Satan, not the world, not our carnal self.
13:7 "There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches."
Those that make themselves rich with just money and material things, but leave out God, have "nothing" that is going to last very long; and are spiritually poor. Those that lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, instead of treasures upon earth, and invest their earthly time and treasures in the things of God, may look poor to the unbeliever (or not as rich as they could appear), are actually quite rich because God will reward this kind of lifestyle with eternal riches that are far, far, better in quality and endurance than earthly riches.
13:10 "Only by pride cometh contention..."
"Contention" or arguing, conflict, bitter debate, only exists when there are two parties that proudfully think that they have to argue a matter. It is right to contend for the faith, and usually OK to voice your opinion, but you don't have to have an "extended", angry, fight of contention over it. One can calmly articulate in a knowledgable way what they believe and the merits for believing it without acting like you are better than someone else, or trying to make them feel inferior as a person. Pro 26:4,5 say "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit."
13:13 "Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded."
The word, God's Word, the Bible, is God's revelation to mankind on how to be saved from eternal ruin and damnation; on how to live this life in a truly prosperous and successful way. To despise, neglect, misunderstand, disagree with, and disobey that Word, is to guarantee one's self eternal destruction (ruination, not annilhation), whether one seems to prosper in this temporal life or not. On the other hand, he that fears (gives proper respect to) the commandment (God's Word) shall be rewarded with peace with God, the peace of God, blessings in this life, and eternal, satisfying rewards in the next.
13:22 "A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children."
This is one of those verses to remember that many of the proverbs are written with the idea of "generally speaking." A "good man" is one that is not "all wrapped up in themself." A "good man" is one that doesn't just look to bless himself, but to bless others; and usually some of those others are the members of his own immediate family, as well as his grandchildren. A "good man" is also one that doesn't just think of his own present generation, but of the generations to follow; which would include his children and grandchildren. Now if the children of this good man were strongly opposed to the things of God, this good man might not consider it the best thing to do to leave them much of an inheritance. It may be more difficult to judge whether the grandchildren will turn out that way or not. Now if the good man is "truly" a good man, generally speaking he would have such a good impact on his children and grandchildren that they would be worthy of a good inheritance. One might consider not giving his children a good inheritance if he has failed to be a good man in the first place. That man will not be made good by giving a good inheritance to unworthy grandchildren, neither will he be made any worse in not giving them a good inheritance. What is more important is not how much money or material possessions is left to someone, but how much of a legacy and example of following God was left to them.
13:24 "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."
Because we are all born with a fallen, rebellious nature, we all need to be corrected often in our first years. Some of that correction may simply be in words (if that is successful); but because many children will test a parent by not obeying their word, some correction will have to become stronger than just words, and involve action. That action doesn't have to be "the rod" (a spanking, or some other acceptable use of physical contact) right after the word is disobeyed. It may be a "time out" or a retraction of the use of a toy or occupation (like watching T.V. or listening to music, or anything to do with technology (phones, computers, etc.). If this not successful as well, then don't spare the rod. Those that think that sparing the rod is showing love are wrong. Without the rod, the child spoils; and a truly loving parent will not want that. He/She that truly loves their child, and truly understands the most successful and right way to rear them, will realize that the rod is necessary at times, and if used in the right way and in the right amount, it won't be necessary to use it much at all, and the child will turn out the better.
14:4 "Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox."
If one has a clean stall to begin with, but they have no ox to put into it, or to use for plowing out in their field, the stall will basically stay clean, but not having an ox will decrease the amount of work that is done, and profit that is made.
This verse used to come to mind when I was pastoring a church that was also renting their facilities to another church to use at a different time of day. I would find things left in an "out of order" kind of way by the other church (trash, or things left unsecured). I would think "They may be making a mess or work that needed to be taken care of, but at the same time they were bringing in added income through rent." One application also could be used with having young children. They may make a mess, but there are also the blessings of having them. A number of other applications could be made as well.
14:9 "Fools make a mock at sin:"
The first thing that comes to mind are the unbelievers that mock Christians and Christianity. Obama did this. Hollywood does this. Many university professors do this, as well as other secular teachers. What is foolish is they will all stand before God one day, and if they never receive Christ they will be cast into a lake of fire forever. Now that is foolish. On a more specific not, such examples could be used as this: They that mock the Bible's warnings against too much time spent drinking alcohol and then getting drunk, and then doing just that, and loosing their job as a result, or getting in an accident by drinking and driving, or leading to many other negative results, are truly foolish.
14:12 "There is a way which seemeth righ unto a man, but the end there of are the ways of death."
This verse is almost identical to 16:25. It is similar to 12:15. When a person does not follow God's way, any other way may seem right to them, but eventually will result in total loss for them. God's way offers the only way of salvation. Without it all other ways lead to eternal death for an individual. A man may think his way is right. He may hear others that tell him his way is right. He may be prosperous, happy, successful in this life. But after he dies he will surely realize how wrong he was.
14:16 "A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident."
A wise man will recognize that evil is a danger to him, and will avoid it or separate himself from it, saving himself from the hurt it can cause him. A fool does not recognize, or believe that particular evils are dangerous to him, and foolishly, proudfully, casts precaution to the wind, and continues confidently on heading to, or continuing with the evil.
14:17 "He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly:
14: 29 "He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly."
Because the above two verses are so similar, I will write my following commentary for both. He that is soon angry often looses control and acts, says, or does something foolishly. One of the most common examples is stubbing your bare toe on a chair and then kicking the chair in anger, and hurting your foot or toe even more. Instead of giving in to anger quickly, not taking time to consider and think out a proper response to what is making one angry, one should exercise self control. Don't just react immediately in a negative way, but keep calm. The advice has been given "Count to ten before you react." The principal is to not to hastily respond without thinking, but to allow yourself to think it over and calm down.
14:34 "Righteousness exalteh a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people."
Righteousness doesn't just involve individuals, but nations. Nations can innact their own laws; and these laws can be righteous in nature or not. Just because a nation makes something legal (homosexuality, pornography, abortion, others sex related categories or non-sexually related like legalizing marijuana usage) doesn't make it acceptable to God. The nation that follows righteousness will be blessed by God, but the nation that doesn't will not only suffer God's reproach, but God's judgment.
15:1 "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger."
One day I had just finished being in a Bible Study, and was pulling away in my car from the curb. I hadn't seen the car approach from behind, and he swerved out of my way, honking his horn profusly. That made me mad, and I took out after him. I soon came to my senses, and decided to profusly apologize when I saw the car pull into a house's driveway. Because of my soft answer, the men in the car became very calm in receiving my apology.
When I worked in security, occasionally I would have to deal with drunks. One man took a swing at me as my trainee and I approached him. In blocking that swing out of pure reflex, the man ended up in a "full Nelson" totally in my control with his face pushed up against a wall. That, along with some "soft words" from me, calmed him down immediately, and the incident was soon calmly over. (My trainee was sooo impressed. :>) ) Imagine if I had used "grievious" words in either of these occasions. Their angry probably would have just escalated.
15:16 "Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith."
As an "either or" proverb, it is better to be in a right relationship to the Lord, and have access to His "unlimited" resources, than to have a lot of money and either the trouble it will bring (using it in an ungodly way when the Lord is not in one's life), or finding that it let's you down either in this life or the life to come.
15:22 "Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established."
Lord Some proverbs are not "always" the case, but speak of "usually, or generally," as this one does. Imagine the object that comes unassemble with many complex directions (counsellors). Follow the directions (if you can understand them) and your purpose of putting the object together correctly will be accomplished. Don't follow the instructions, and generally speaking you will be disappointed in the outcome, or how frustrating the process of putting it together was.
15:28 "The heart of the righteous studieth to answer:..."
The reason the righteous are righteous is because they have the Lord in their life. The LORD knows everything, and how to answer anything. With Him and His Word as our resources, the righteous should consult Him about difficult things to answer. That may take some time to "study" it out. If one doesn't respond from the source of righteousness, one often doesn't study it out and gives a wrong, or misapplied answer, or answer given in the wrong way or at the wrong time.
15:33 "The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility."
In other words, God's wisdom instructs us to give God reverential fear, trust, and worship to Him in our times of humility. True honor usually has to be earned, and that takes time; times of patience, humility, and trust that those times will end, and end well if we exercise these things during them.
16:4 "The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil."
The Lord didn't make people wicked. They made themselves wicked. But God has appointed a day of judgment, and that the wicked will be judged.
16:16 "How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver."
It would be nice to have all four, but if it is a matter of either or, gold without wisdom will soon lead to the loss of the gold. If one has wisdom, they also have a good chance of being able to obtain all the gold they need. Remember therefore that the fear (reverance and worship) of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.
16:18 "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
This is speaking of an egotistical, self-centered, ungodly pride, the worst of which might be that "the fool hath said in his heart (there is) No God.", Psa 14:3. When we don't follow the counsel of God at all, our way is doomed either to eventual failure (Pro 15:22) and our soul is doomed to Hell.
16:25 "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end there of are the ways of death."
See 14:12 above.
16:31 "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness."
The hoary head is the gray haired head that has been usually produced after many years of experience, living through many years. It takes many years to learn the various aspects of wisdom and knowledge in this world. If one follows the ways of God in living righteously in relation to Him, then that gray hair in His sight is a badge or crown of glory. If one does not live in righteousness, than no matter how much the person may know, or how gray their hair is, they are not worthy of, or will they receive this glory from God.
17:22 "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones."
We take medicine either in an attempt to restore or maintain our health. Proverbs points out that "a merry heart" (a happy emotion or positive attitude if you will) can act like a spiritual medicine. At times we need to administer this medicine to ourselves, and at times be available to offer this medicine to those in need around us. Instead of looking like we have been sucking on lemons or eating sour grapes, we need to spend such a time with the Lord (who is the health of my countenance, Ps 42:11, 43:5) that our demeanor will be an encouragement to people that are spiritually down around us. The flip side of Pr 17:22 is the negative effect of the "broken spirit", the spirit that is not strong in the Lord, that has a negative world view, rather than the positive view that one walking with the Lord has regardless of the worldly circumstances around them. "Dry bones" reminds me of an old person with cancer or even arthritus, that no longer can move (for God) very easily. What makes are heart merry, that can restore vitality to us and those around us? A proper view of God, who is still on the throne, still in control, still loves us, and still has a purpose for us.
17:27 "He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit."
He that hath the knowledge, that God reveals in His Word, knows enough about the pride and foolishness of argumentive men and women not to give them more (words/advice/counsel) than they can handle without them becoming defensive. A man of understanding this, has a "calm" spirit with people. He doesn't have to become "heated" either in combating their erroneous ideas, misguided values, or in defending the faith. Self control (in the power of the Holy Spirit) and patience are keys in allowing God to determine how much you should say, and how peacefully you should say it. A controlled, soft, quieter voice is usually more beneficial in talking with people. One may win an argument (whether heater or not), but they usually still do not win the one they are arguing with over to their point of view. He that is convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.
17:28 "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
This verse goes along with the preceeding verse. Lincoln is said to have said it like this: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt." Sometimes we shouldn't gamble and say something we will regret. We should just remain quiet and not risk saying something foolish.
18:10 "The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe!"
The "name" involves authority and character. The 'strong tower" was a place of safety, as well as a place of height from which to gain a better view and understanding of the danger around you. This allowed you to know your level of security, as well as give you an advantageous position above your enemy in which to fight back from. What a great example of the safety, knowledge, and advantageous position we have when we run to the Lord for these things. Why not just put this "spiritual tower" on wheels, and continuously live with it, or at least draw it along with us for a ready retreat whenever we need it?
18:22 "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD."
Of course this is a general statement. One doesn't want to just run out and marry anyone. First find out what God would have you have in a wife. Proverbs 31 is a good place to find a description of her. Ahab found a terrible wife in Jezebel. David found a good wife in Abigail, though God didn't direct, but only allowed the practice of having more than one wife at a time. Just like there is wisdom in having a plurality of elders in a church, there is favor in a man having a wife, socially, emotionally, sexually, intellectually, spiritually, and other ways as well. Though you can't always have your own way, two heads are often better than one. There are both pluses and minuses in staying single, as well as in being married. We all start of as single, and can enjoy that life while we have it, but it is usually not the best to deny yourself from the benefits of having the married life later as well.
18:24 "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."
Most people are not "friend magnates", meaning that people just have a natural desire to want to be their friend, unless they are a rich celebrity or something. No, if you want to have friends YOU have to WORK at first making friends, and then maintaining those friendships. Having "friends" on Facebook doesn't count by the way. It is easy to be an isolationist these days, that has no friends. To have friends one ususally has to go out of their way to meet people and make the first moves in first greeting them, and then going beyond just a greeting, but engaging them in conversation, and eventually in mutual activity. I am speaking of more than just saying "Hi" to the neighbor, or having an "acquaintance." Friendship involves both "having" a friend, and being a friend. The first does for you, while the second is you doing for them. This may involve just "being there" for them, to listen to them. It then may evolve in "doing" for one another. Often it is just enjoying being together talking, or doing something together you both enjoy.
That friend that sticketh closer than a brother, goes beyond the average friend. A brother is "family." They will always be family, while friends may not always be friends. Being family involves a bond that lasts through time, though may or may not be a close bond for various reasons. A brother may not be available due to physical distance, emotional distance, or because of commitments to their own family through marriage. But then there is that "special" friend that is able to be more loyal and available than even a brother.
20:1 "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise."
For some, it is good to stay away from alcohol altogether. Not too many problems will arise from that, though you might be judged unsocialable or "pious" at times. You won't suffer from "DUI" or run over anybody because of it. Total abstinence is not really taught in Scripture as an absolute way of living God demands from everyone. It was recommended for kings, as well as commanded for Nazarites. God is definitely against drunkeness, but gave wine as both a blessing and for medicinal purposes in Scripture.
21:1 "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
God's in control, not just of natural rivers, but of the thinking of people that have authority over others. God is not to blame for the free will that some use to exercise ungodliness, but the people themselves that exercise that free will. God allows "kings" to be evil and injust, but can kill them if He likes, or incapacitate them physically or mentally, or replace them with someone else. God has His reasons to let them reign in the first place. Sometimes it is in judgment of the wicked, ungodly people they are over; a sort of "You get what you deserve" type of judgment. Since God has this power over who is in ruling over people, those that will pray, can have an influence upon them that rule when they ask God to intervene upon that rule.
21:3 "To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice."
God would rather have a ruler/leader rule fairly in following proper laws, as well as carrying out those laws with proper judgment, than to just go through the motions of ones job. Ancient man was required to bring animal sacrifices to God, but often, though they obeyed, their heart really wasn't in it. They might only do as little as possible in order to keep the letter of the law, but had no desire to go the extra mile in carrying out the spirit of the law, the true purpose of the law. What was more acceptable to the LORD was following God from the heart, not just in action.
21:23 "Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles."
There are certain troubles we bring upon ourselves simply by what we say. If we would "keep" our mouths (guard what we say), take time to think about and evaluate what we should say or not say; be careful not to say the wrong things, we would keep certain troubles from coming into our lives. Sometimes we need to just remain silent. Other times silence can be misinterpreted in a negative way, so we need to determine what to say that will bring a positive response.
22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
What way should they go? They should go the way of coming to receive Jesus as their Savior and Lord. They should go the way of learning to feed themselves spiritually. They should go the way of walking with the Lord in obedience and joyful righteous fellowship. This is more than just church attendance, for 70% of kids that grow up in a church, stop going when they leave high school. Someone that is "properly" trained will not leave the Lord when they are old. If they leave the Lord, then they were not "properly" trained.
23:7 "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:"
Many can keep legalistic rules and regulations, and appear to be one way on the outside, appear to be obedient to God; while on the inside in their heart (mind) they are totally different, and rebellious to God. Jesus spoke of the Pharisees as being like whitewashed tombs, clean on the outside but full of dead men's bones on the inside. He spoke of what defileth a man was not what he took within through eating, but what evil things came out from their wicked hearts. Man may judge us by our appearance, but we should judge ourselves by what we know our thought and desires really to be. "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." 1Sa 16:7. "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." Jn7:24.
23:17 "Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long."
Living in the USA, having access to stores with expensive merchandise, seeing wealth displayed on TV and the Internet, Christians are easily distracted from the things of the Lord. It is the natural man that wants "more", and envies the riches, the power, the pleasure, etc. that others have. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth." Col 3:1,2. We must guard our minds, and keep in mind what is truly more valuable throughout the day, not just in church or during our devotions. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth or rusth doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." Mt 6:19,20.
26:4,5 "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit."
At first these verses may seem to be a contradiction, but it is the second part of each verse that shows they are not. They would be easier to understand if they were prefaced by the phrase "In some cases..." It depends on the situation whether one should answer a fool or not. We don't want to be like the fool in some cases, and in some cases we shouldn't remain silent or the fool will be mislead to think they are right and wise in their own evaluation of themselves, others, or some particular issue.
27:1 "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."
This verse doesn't say that one can not speak of tomorrow, but that one is not to boast of tomorrow as if they knew absolutely for certain what was going to happen tomorrow. Only God knows the future absolutely for certain. When we do speak of the future, our future, let us not do in boastfully, but in humble recognition of the God that holds that future.
27:2 "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips."
When you praise yourself you come off egotistical, and that will not draw people to God or what you are saying for God. Jn 7:18 says "He that speaketh of himself seekth his own glory." Let a stranger praise thee, instead of yourself, because a stranger doesn't know all your bad qualities.
27:17 "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
A dull ax is not very effective, making the work harder; but when iron is rubbed/struck against iron many times, though it may get hot and sparks may fly, the metal blade or ax can be sharpened. A friend should hope for the benefit of his friend, and should have his friend's best interest in mind when they may "clash" with them over a difference in opinion, whether it is over a scriptural debate, whether it involves a needed correction or rebuke, or whether it is in an attempt to exhort that friend on to good or better works. Though it may be humbling or even embarrassing, or may make you a little angry at first, you should take this uncomfortable sharpening gratefully from your true friend, and allow it to accomplish the good goal of its purpose.
27:23 "Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds."
Though I think of this in regards to pastors, and having been a pastor, that they should keep aware, through good channels of communication, how people in their congregations are doing health-wise, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, etc., in order to be aware of how to minister to their needs; I think this verse could be applied to others as well. We all should be aware of these things among our own family members, our friends, as well as the state of our own finances, and the various things that we possess that need occasional maintenance.
28:4 "They that forsake the law praise the wicked, but such as keep the law contend with them."
Those that do not value, uphold, or live according to God's standards as recorded in the Bible often see the wicked in a good light. How many millions of people look up to actors that promote sex outside of marriage? How many millions of people look up to politicians that promote the murder of unborn babies that are created in God's image? How many people look up to known homosexuals in approval of their lifestyle, let alone how many people that do not approve it will not speak out against the practice of homosexuality? Those that truly follow God's Word closely, will not only practice what He says, but will be obedient to Him when He says to speak for what He says, and to not be afraid to represent Him and what He says publicly.
28:13 "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesses and forsaketh them shall have mercy."
The ultimate truth of this verse deals with one's relationship to God, but is often true of the relationships between people as well. When people cover their sins and their mistakes, and other people then learn of this, these other people have a tendancy not to trust these people. When a person is not trusted in hampers there opportunities to prosper in interpersonal relationships, in work relationships, and in social relationships. The person that covers up also has a tendancy to continue in these things they are covering, rather than forsaking them. This just makes the list of offenses grow and grow. People have a hard time forgiving things that have been covered and not confessed. Thankfully with God, He will forgive anything and everything the sincerely pentitent person that has trusted their sin-bearer Jesus, and trusts and calls upon Him to forgive them. 1Jn 1:9.
28:21 "To have respect of persons is not good; for for a piece of bread that man will transgress."
The person that places a higher value on certain people that are richer, more powerful, more influential, or that can benefit them in greater ways than people that are not as rich, powerful, etc., is a person that will do wrong, even if it is for just a small advantage. This type of person is not a person of good character, but a greedy, selfish person, that will choose wrong over right if it is for even a temporary benefit. In trying to attain more and more for themselves, they are actually diminishing their real, own value. For a while, they may look good in their own eyes, and in the eyes of some others, but not in the eternal eyes of God. What they seemingly gain in this life, they will eventually lose for eternity.
29:18 "Where there is no vision the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
The word "vision" here is specifically referring to a written record of God's revelation. Up to this point in time the Jews had the five books of Moses, as well as the twelve historical books that followed, and most of the poetical books from which to refer to. However, when people did not follow God's Word they would "perish"; they would not have the life and blessing God wanted for them, and in being separated from His Word, they would be separated from Him, and not fulfill the purpose for which they were created. On the other hand, those that kept, guarded, applied God's Word to their lives were "happy", blessed, spiritually prosperous, whether they had a smile on their face or not.
29:25 "The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe."
The classic example of this is when the 12 spies went into the land that God had promised to the children of Israel, and promised to go with them into it. If they would have trusted the Lord, they would have been safe, but 10 of the 12 feared the giants in the land, and convince the people of Israel (except Joshua and Caleb, and Moses) that they could not conquer them. They were then snared in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation of Jews died off. We are to learn not to fear man, but to trust in the Lord and what He has said He will do for us.
30:33 "Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife."
Just as surely as the results are known of doing the first two examples given, so angrily forcing yourself, your opinion, or your way of doing things upon someone that is not receptive of these things, or maybe even neutral to start, will only cause them to be against you, either outwardly or inwardly. To get someone to be agreeable to you or what you want, you should not appear to be angrily forcing or attacking them and what they want that is different from you. You should calmly, nicely, show them how that what you want is the best thing for them, will help them, and possibly even get them to think it was their own idea in the first place.
31:10 "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies."
Here we see a comparison of value. What makes a woman (a wife for one example, a coworker, employee, someone serving you, or just a woman in general) of great value? Someone who is not totally, selfishly caught up in themselves. Someone that is totally honest, yet tactful and kind when need be. Someone that doesn't have to be told to do everything that should be done. Someone that cares about others. Someone that will sacrifice their own welfare to some degree for the good of someone else. Someone who is trustworthy, dependable, can be counted upon, who has integrity. Someone that knows the difference between right and wrong, and who will consistently do right. Other things could be listed, but these are the kind of things that make up a virtuous woman. What many women try to be today, and what many are looking for in a woman is beauty, youth, intellegence, humor, willingness to give pleasure, popularity, and wealth. These things are fine, but should not be at the top of the list. It is a matter of priorities.
31:30 "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised."
A woman that has been favored with an attractive, healthy, strong body; who was born into a rich family and has lots of her own money; has been blessed with a "good" mind; and has a beautiful face, eyes, skin, and hair may cause people at first look to think that she has everything she could want and that others would want in her. This is deceitful. She could still be a very unpleasant person to be around. On the other hand, whether a woman has those qualities mentioned in both of these last two verses mentioned or not, if she is a woman that "fears" reveres, honors and worships the Lord, she is a woman worthy of praise in God's opinion. She is a woman that will make her husband proud (if he is a descent husband); who will make her children proud; that will be highly esteemed and loved by both, for she will love and serve them well, and be pleasant to be around. She will be becoming like the Lord Jesus in character, manifesting the fruits of the Holy Spirit, Gal 5:22,23. She will not be perfect, but she will be worthy of praise.
This brings me to the end of my "Pondering Proverbs", commenting on the particular verses I have memorized in the past, and continue to review in the present every two weeks. If I look over these comments, I may add to them in the future. Obviously they are nowhere near exhaustive on what can be gleaned from these verses if one would just meditate on them in the Spirit.