“He who gathers in summer is a wise son; he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.”
It’s plain to see from this and other proverbs that farming was the primary way people earned their living in Bible times. That’s far different than where we’re at today!
For the farmer, there’s only one time to bring in a crop, during harvest time. You can’t harvest after planting, while it’s growing, or months after the harvest. If the farmer in Old Testament times didn’t harvest his produce at the right time, he’d lose everything he worked for and would have nothing to live on.
What would you think of someone who invested time and money into a business venture and then when it was time to reap the fruits, he let it all go to waste because he was sleeping? What a fool! How shameful!
You must work diligently (v. 4) and at the right time (v. 5). If you don’t, you have only yourself to blame. Being lazy, slack, negligent, and idle are moral and spiritual issues. These proverbs address your responsibilities in life, not accidents or things that are out of your control. Too many make a fuss about what is or isn’t fair, but what are you doing to work and meet your needs?
- How much effort do you put into “harvest” time? It is hard work, but the Lord gives the increase; praise him for such and roll up your sleeves!
- Is there a time to “sleep”? How well will you sleep if you have nothing to live on?
- From this proverb, what must you do to be wise? To be foolish?
“He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”
The previous two proverbs emphasized how the Lord provides for the needs of the righteous; this and the next proverb show what’s required on your part (see also one of Solomon’s fatherly talks about this, Prov 6:6–11).
A “slack hand” is a figure of speech, with “hand” referring to your actions, what you do. Combined with “slack” (idle, lazy) the picture is someone who’s hands aren’t doing anything but leaning on the shovel watching the day go by or folded in the lap while dozing away. Don’t presume that you can just sit around and wait for God to provide because he is gracious and giving. Poverty is the sure end of those who refuse to work.
In contrast to the slacker is the “hand of the diligent,” one who works hard and steadily. There isn’t anything flashy about steady, earnest, sweaty, day-after-day work, but that is God’s will and how he provides for your needs (cf. also Eph 4:28; 1 Thess 4:11–12; 2 Thess 3:12). Believers must pray for their daily bread and work hard for it!
- Being lazy isn’t something you have to learn, it is the natural tendency of your sin nature. How can you put that to death and put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Col 3:5a)?
- Would others say you are a hard worker? Are you?
- Pray the Lord helps you to be more diligent and less of a slacker! Start doing so now!
“The Lord will not allow the righteous soul to famish, but He casts away the desire of the wicked.”
This follows up on the previous proverb. In Old Testament times God blessed Israelites who lived righteous lives, but He brought trouble on those who were wicked (Deut 28).
Note the name of God here, the LORD, the God of the covenant who shows His mercy to Israel. What the Lord promised in his covenant to Israel he would accomplish and bring to pass, both the blessing and the curse.
The righteous may view their circumstances as dire and hopeless, as victims of circumstances, ground under the wheels of life. The Lord would not allow that. God is not bound by circumstances but is Lord over them. He works through such, even allowing the righteous to suffer so they will call on him and seek him, lean on and trust in him rather than themselves or something else.
Never worry about the essential things of life but seek the Lord and live and do what he has said you should do (cf. Matt 6:33). This doesn’t mean be lazy and just sit and wait for God’s provision (see vv. 4–5!). Rather, the whole idea of being righteous is conforming to God’s character in life (here, “soul”) and demonstrating such by whole-souled obedience to him. Thus, rather than a presumptuous laziness, the righteous exercise confident labor. They work hard, knowing the Lord will not allow them to famish but will meet their needs.
In contrast to this, no matter what the wicked may desire, God the righteous judge dismisses such entirely and completely (“casts away”).
- It’s easy to evaluate by externals—“so-and-so has everything, God must have blessed them!” Why is this wrong?
- From this proverb, what’s really the most important thing? Is that the most important thing to you?
- From this proverb, what is the real reason your needs are met?
- Who—what—do you ultimately trust for your daily, essential needs?
Prov 10:2—”Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivers from death.”
From an external perspective it seems the more money you have, the better condition you’re in. It seems that in this world riches are most important, morality—not so much.
God your Creator says otherwise. He says that gaining wealth by illegal, sinful, or otherwise dishonest means is a waste, living only for the moment, failing to take the long look. In other words, if you’re not living for unending eternity, you’re living for the soon-to-pass present (cf. 1 John 2:15-17). It might indeed be a treasure, but if it’s gained by wickedness it’s worthless. How much did treasures help Belshazzar in Daniel 5:1–30 or the rich man in Luke 16:19–31?
In contrast to this is righteousness, conforming to God’s character and will. When you live to be and do right by God’s character and commands, that shows you’re in the narrow way that leads to life. Be sure of this: you don’t have eternal life because you’re doing right. Salvation from sin comes by relying on Christ alone for forgiveness of sins. But if you are on the narrow road leading to life, your life will be “righteous,” consistent with God’s character and commands.
All kinds of thought and effort go into gaining wealth by wickedness; how much thought and effort do you put into living a life characterized by righteousness? Don’t evaluate life by what you can see (or count), make decisions and judgments by God’s character and commands. Character is more important than currency, godliness then gold, faithfulness than followers.
- What is the focus, aim, and desire of your life? Compare Matt 6:25–34.
- How important is money to you? What will that do for you 100 years from now?
- What do you view as valuable and important? How will that “weigh” on God’s balance scale?
- What you live for tells and teaches others what you think is most important. What is your life telling and teaching?
10:1—”A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother.”
“A wise son” is a young adult whose aim, affections, decisions, and lifestyle correspond to and demonstrate love for the Lord and faithfulness to His Word. In contrast, “a foolish son” rejects the Lord and lives a self-centered, self-fulfilling life. No matter how great your earthly accomplishments may be, your life is a waste if you reject Lord.
Godly parents teach, train, discipline, and admonish their children in the Lord’s ways. They know the blessings of following the Lord and the perils of living by one’s own understanding (9:10-18). Children can be taught, trained, and encouraged to fear of the Lord, but they must decide whether to follow Christ or reject him.
What joy and gladness godly parents have when their children love the Lord! What heartache and sadness they have when their children don’t!
Children are often told they can be and do whatever they want. No, they can’t! They shouldn’t be taught this, they should be taught to fear the Lord! That is the way of foolishness, bringing them only sorrow, trouble, and death, and grief to godly parents. Young person, your choices don’t just affect you, they affect generations (parents, grandparents, your children and grandchildren).
- Young person, it’s always been “popular” to reject godly parents’ instruction and guidance, but who loves you, the world, or your parents?
- Young people, think—how do your parents feel about what you say, do, dress, who and what you like, what you read, listen to, and watch? Do they rejoice, or are they pained? They care—do you?
- Parents, what are you teaching and training your children toward? It’s not just what you say to them, but also how you live before them. Do you consider the long-term effects of your parenting?
- Parents, how do you feel if your children are warm to the things of the world and cold to the things of the Lord? What are you doing about it?
Proverbs 10:1—“The proverbs of Solomon”
It may seem nit-picky to start with this little phrase, but God wanted it there (2 Pet 1:21). Every word is “God-breathed,” essential for godly living (2 Tim 3:16-17). So, before diving into the hundreds of proverbs, let’s review and remember some essential things about the book from this opening statement.
First, these are proverbs: compact statements giving biblical wisdom. Wisdom is taught through these: the correct, skillful application of the fear of the Lord to daily life. The fear of the Lord is reverent belief in the God of the Bible, exclusively loving, obeying, and worshiping the One you will give an account to. As you read these proverbs, don’t forget that they are “compact statements.” They don’t tell everything about a subject, what could or couldn’t happen, nor are they iron-clad guarantees. They describe what normally is the case, so be wise and do as instructed!
As “the proverbs of Solomon” read them from his perspective. These aren’t your grandma’s memorable cute or quaint little sayings; they’re based on and teach the wisdom of the Mosaic Law, God’s revealed truth given to God’s covenant people Israel. The Law addressed all of life in that nation God ruled through a human mediator, in this case, King Solomon. When Israel obeyed God’s Law, they would experience his blessing in every area of life; as they disobeyed, God’s curse would likewise be experienced (see Deut 28).
- Do you view the Bible as God’s Word? How should that affect your attitude, approach, and response to it?
- What is the end purpose of God’s Word (2 Tim 3:16-17)? Is that your goal? What are you doing toward that end?
- Work hard at understanding Scripture correctly. The more you read and study, the better you’ll understand and more correctly apply it. Right application always follows right interpretation.
What is Lent?
Lent is a tradition observed by Catholics, Lutherans, and Anglicans, and some Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians. It is observed from Ash Wednesday to Easter.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and is based on the OT practice of using ashes as signs of penitence and mourning. Centuries ago Roman Catholics who fell into serious sin became part of an “order of penitents” to prepare themselves to be reconciled with the Church in Holy Week and thus be prepared for Holy Communion. Today on Ash Wednesday ashes are sprinkled on people’s foreheads as a sign of mortality while the priest/officiant says, “dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19).
Lent’s purpose is to prepare one (through prayer, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial) for “Holy Week” that recalls Christ’s death and resurrection. This is not an optional activity for Roman Catholics: they are required to observe this, including abstaining from meat and fasting on Ash Wednesday (Code of Canon Law, 1249–1253).
Their “biblical basis” is found in Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the desert before his public ministry began. “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 138).
The Meaning of Lent. At first the Latin term for 40 (quadragesima) was used As English began to be used in Catholic sermons during the Middle Ages, the word lent was adopted. At first lent meant spring (German: Lenz, Dutch: lente). It comes from the Germanic root for long because in spring the days are longer.
Why is Lent Observed? The Roman Catholic Church says that fasting during Lent must be observed so that spiritual life is “guaranteed” in “the faithful” (Catechism, p. 493). By keeping these “holy days of obligation” Catholics “honor the mysteries of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, and the saints” (Catechism, p. 494). This is a “means of obtaining forgiveness of sins” (Catechism, p. 360).
Lent is observed to honor Mary—“In celebrating this annual cycle of the mysteries of Christ, Holy Church honors the Blessed Mary, Mother of God, with a special love. She is inseparably linked with the saving work of her Son” (Catechism, p. 303).
What Else is Observed During Lent? Lent is preceded by a festival (Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday) that gives one last opportunity for excess. The 40 days of Lent are marked by fasting from food and activities and other acts of penance. Some people give up a vice or add something that will bring them closer to God.
Did the Protestant Reformers Observe Lent? The Reformers rejected Lent, seeing it as the difference between the sacramentalism of Catholicism and the Scriptural foundation of “faith alone” (sola fide). One of the Reformers, Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), and some of his followers publicly and purposely violated the Lenten fast by eating smoked sausages.
Should Christians Observe Lent?
We must first consider what is a Christian? A Christian is a sinner who is saved solely by God’s grace through Jesus Christ, not by any human works or merit. Salvation is received by repenting from dead works and all attempts to be saved by self-righteousness, and by exclusive faith in Jesus Christ—the knowledge of, assent to, and unreserved trust in the person and work of Christ. A Christian is a believer whose salvation is evidenced by holiness and good works, not gained or maintained by such.
Lent is a Catholic rite, and its purposes are to guarantee spiritual life, honor Jesus Christ and Mary, and obtain forgiveness of sins.
The various customs associated with Lent are entirely works of self-righteousness by which one tries to get right with and closer to God. God says in Scripture, however, that works can never gain forgiveness of sins (Gal 2:16), and that such have no place in the Christian’s life (Gal 3:3). “All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isa 64:6; Phil 3:9)
Christians should not observe Lent – it is a distinctly Catholic ritual, believed to be essential for salvation and forgiveness of sins. Depending on your works will never bring you closer to God. Rituals are substituted for the real thing—the righteousness of Christ. Additionally, we are warned against making some days more important than others (Gal 4:9–10; Col 2:8, 16). Observing Lent in reality an exercise in hypocrisy—before and after Lent adherents can literally live like the Devil, but during Lent the same feign holiness by outward efforts of self-denial.
This last talk makes clear that you must choose either wisdom and life or foolishness and death. We have heard “wisdom’s” appeal and encouragement, now we will hear what “foolishness” has to say, and what will happen to those who choose this woeful woman. Foolishness’s invitation focuses and emphasizes externals (“clamorous,” 13a). She is “simple” (and that’s not a complement!) and “knows nothing” (13b), in other words, foolishness is completely ignorant of the Lord and His ways. Foolishness sits at the door, giving the sense of one who is lazy, a slob, dirty, messy, and boorish (14). Like wisdom (3b) foolishness also is at the highest places of the city (14b); this was where people would regularly gather for worship, so foolishness sets herself up in competition to the Lord. She appeals to those who know nothing (16), offering a feast significantly different from wisdom’s, one that is stolen from others rather than laboriously prepared (17). This “talk” describes the end of those who go in after foolishness (18). Foolishness doesn’t care about the future, seeking to gratify senses and live for “now.” Because of this those who follow her end up dead and in hell. If you go this route for fun and good times you’ll end up with the exact opposition.
- In every situation of life you always have two choices—wisdom or foolishness. Stop and think! Ask the Lord for help and wisdom!
- Your choice of wisdom or foolishness depends on whether you fear the Lord or not. Do you fear the Lord?
- Is there such a thing as the middle of the road? Which woman—wisdom or foolishness—would say there is?
- In Bible times dining with others was a close, personal relationship. Who are you cultivating that kind of a relationship with, God’s wisdom or foolishness’ friends death and hell?
“Wisdom” has given her invitation (1-6) and now describes how she’s received (7-12). Those who reject her are fools and mockers who hate correction, attacking those who try to help them. Every attempt to fix a fool is fruitless (7-8a). In contrast, those who are wise grow in wisdom (8b-9) and are thankful for those who help them. The fool’s mind is closed to the Lord’s while the mind of the wise is open to Him. If you’ve ever tried convincing someone who’s obstinately going the wrong way that they’re wrong, you’ve experienced something of this! The fundamental, root issue is if you fear the Lord (10-11). Remember, the fear of the Lord is a reverent belief in the God of the Bible, exclusively loving, obeying, and worshiping the One you will give an account to. The fear of the Lord is the “beginning of wisdom” in the sense that it is its foundation and fount, what it is based on and springs from (cf. 1:7). If you live fearing the Lord, that will positively affect your life (11). Ultimately you’re responsible for yourself (12), whether you’ll be wise and live from God’s perspective or be stubbornly foolish and reject Him.
- What can you learn from vv. 7-9 about the best direction to give your energies and effort?
- How do you respond when someone points out a problem in your life?
- If you don’t listen to correction, what will happen?
In these last eight chapters Solomon has had a series of “talks” with his sons. He has been teaching what wisdom looks like and emphasizing that it is a matter of life and death. These “talks” give the essential principles of wisdom that will help understand the proverbs given in the rest of the book.
This last “talk” draws things to a close, demonstrating that you must make a decision: choose either wisdom and life or foolishness and death. There are two competing ways of life: wisdom and foolishness. You must choose where you’ll “lay your head,” and be assured, wherever you make your bed, you’ll like in it!
Verses 1-16 continue the concept of wisdom speaking as a person. Her invitation describes a perfect setting and layout (1-2). She provides a large, well-built house (1) and a sumptuous feast (2). What a place to call home! What a feast to enjoy and benefit from! God’s ways are solid and lasting, truly enjoyable and satisfying!
Wisdom’s invitation is an open one (3-6). Wisdom is for those without it—the simple and ignorant (4). Wisdom gives life (5) and receiving her requires rejecting foolishness (6). You can’t go down two different paths or directions; you can’t love righteousness and wickedness. Jesus himself said you must choose one of two ways (Matt 7:13-14) and masters (Matt 6:24).
- What do you call “home”? Where do you go for spiritual nourishment?
- Do you reject what is wrong (6)? This is necessary, but not enough, you must embrace what is right!
- Everyone must choose whether to fear the Lord or not, to follow wisdom or foolishness. What have and will you choose?
- Young people are especially in view in these “talks.” They face a decision to follow the world or the Lord. Will you pray for them? Will you talk to them and urge them to follow the Lord?
“Wisdom” closes her autobiography with an admonition: “Listen to me, or else!” There are definite responsibilities with definite results, both positive (32b, 34–35) and negative (36). What you will experience (blessing and life or pain and death) match up with what you do with wisdom. As you read verses 32–34, did you “hear” the beginning of the chapter? Note especially vv. 3 and 34! Life belongs to those who listen to God’s wisdom with obedience (32), love, respect, and approval (33), and constant, expectant attention (34). To experience pain and death all you need do is ignore Wisdom, disdaining and sinning against her. You might wonder how “wisdom” can be sinned against (v. 36); remember from yesterday’s devotional that wisdom is an attribute of God. We know God by and from his attributes; he is what his attributes are. If you reject and disdain God’s wisdom, you’re rejecting and showing contempt for him, and when you sin against the Lord you wrong your own soul. Dear friend, listening to wisdom is vital for living in God’s world!
- God’s blessing doesn’t rest on one who merely hears his Word. What is necessary? (v. 32b; cf. Matt 7:24–27)
- There are only two responses to God’s wisdom in his Word, obedient, loving approval or sinful, hateful disdain. How are you responding? How you live is the answer!
- Regular, continual, daily listening is required (vv. 32–34). Why?
- Why is it that if one hates the Lord he loves death (v. 36)?
Here “Wisdom” gives autobiographical details about herself to prove why listening to her is vital for living in God’s world, pointing out that God used wisdom to create everything (vv. 22–31). First, she says, “Listen to me, because I’ve been around forever,” (vv. 22–26). Wisdom has existed before anything existed: earth, depths, foundations, mountains, hills, fields, dust, the stars and planets in the heavens, the clouds, and seas. The reason wisdom is eternal is because wisdom is an attribute of God—he is all-wise (Rom 11:33). Think about this: God knows exactly the right way to use his infinite knowledge. He never has been “stumped,” nor has he ever said “oops.” Second, “Wisdom” says, “When it comes to living life, listen to me, as I was essential to the creation of everything,” (vv. 27–31). Everything God created was perfect and exactly as he thought it should be. Thus, at the end of God’s creative work the assessment was that “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Since God’s wisdom was essential to his creative work, you must have God’s wisdom to correctly live in God’s creation. No one knows life in this world better than the Creator!
- Have you ever listened to a symphony? Most orchestras have 50–100 members. You might know a little about music, but could you correctly and skillfully apply that knowledge for dozens of players so that the music is beautiful and harmonious? Now, think about everything in creation!
- What should you think about the God who “orchestrated” creation?
- How should you respond to the “sheet music” God has given for living life as it should be (the Bible)?
- What happens when you don’t follow the “sheet music” God has given? How serious can the consequences be?
- How does a musician improve? Practice, practice, practice! The more you listen to the Lord, the more skillful you’ll live life. What kind of effort are you devoting to that?