A Proverb a day, with commentary from H.A. Ironside, a great Bible teacher from the mid-20th Century.
Ignorance is not to be admired. The worldly axiom, “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise,” is false and foolish. To lack knowledge is undesirable.
The first three proverbs of this chapter are intimately connected, and we therefore consider them together. They contrast the path of truth and the way of self-will and ignorance. It is far better to be poor and unknown, walking before God in uprightness and integrity of heart, than to be obtrusive in speech but given to folly and perverseness.
Mere zeal will not suffice to keep one right. One may be earnest, but earnestly wrong, as was Saul of Tarsus before his conversion (Act_26:9). He who runs on without learning the will of God adds sin to sin. His foolishness leads him astray, and his deceitful heart is irritated against the Lord. He is bent on his own way and can tolerate no correction. See the behavior of Jonah when he was acting in self-will (Jon_1:3; Jon_4:8-9).
The well-to-do will always have many who claim his friendship, while the indigent will often find that he is separated from his neighbors because of his poverty. For though the easily-satisfied optimist may think this world is glamorous, it really is a cold, and feelingless place after all.
But there is a legitimate sense in which friends may be made by means of wealth. Our Lord commanded His disciples, “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations” (Luk_16:9). Riches, if used for the alleviation of misery and to the glory of God, may be the means of much blessing. When at last the one who has so used them passes away, the objects of his Christlike benefactions on earth will be waiting to welcome him into the everlasting home of the redeemed.
Notice Pro_19:6-7; Pro_19:17 of this chapter of Proverbs for more comment on the inequities engendered by worldly wealth. The just man will not regard the rich more than the poor. See Job_34:19 and Jam_2:1-9.
The judgment of God is according to truth. He will see that every transgression and disobedience receive its just reward. A lie may seem to triumph for the time being, but the truth eventually will prevail. See the witnesses against Naboth (1Ki_21:8-13). Note Pro_19:9.
These verses continue the theme began in Pro_19:4. There are always multitudes to serve a nobleman and play the part of friends to one who can be their benefactor. How different was the spirit of Jesus in this world. He received sinners and ate with them; He sought not the smiles of the great, nor feared their frowns! Through the Holy Spirit He commanded those who would follow in His steps to “mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate” (Rom_12:16).
The world prefers the rich and great over the destitute and outwardly lowly. But let the Christian remember that his Lord appeared on earth as one of the poor whom His brethren despised. His friends went far from Him, though He pursued them with tender entreaties. Surely those who are now linked by grace with Him must always cherish a loving concern for the needy.
The Hebrew word translated wisdom conveys the idea of sound judgment or common sense. See Pro_15:21.
To pursue moral uprightness and to cleave to understanding bring true peace and lasting happiness. See Timothy (2Ti_3:14-15).
In Pro_19:5 we are reminded that the liar will not escape judgment. Here we are told what his doom will be-he will perish. He will be destroyed. That is, his hopes will be cut off, and he will go out into the darkness; broken beneath the judgment of God, he will endure unspeakable sorrows forever (Rev_21:8).
A servant ruling over princes and a fool living in the lap of luxury are both out of place. They indicate conditions that are inconsistent with logical order. Circumstances may arise in which a prince is helpless and obliged to rely on the judgment of someone in a lower position. But the wise servant will use his powers with discretion and remember his true position, though all is under his hand. See Joseph (Gen_47:14-20).
See note on Pro_14:29. An uncontrolled temper, displayed in hasty, unjudged anger, indicates a man who has never learned the great lesson of self-control. A pompous, conceited person cannot overlook an injury done to him, but must vent his wrath on the offender whenever possible. A man of sound judgment and discretion has learned to pass lightly over offenses and seeming insults that would goad one who lacks wisdom on to intense indignation. Even Esau, whatever his failings otherwise, proved himself when he greeted his brother Jacob (who had greatly offended him) with grace and magnanimity (Gen_33:4-9).
Because there is great power in the word of a king his wrath is to be dreaded and his gracious favor eagerly sought. How much more fully may the words of this proverb be applied to the coming King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah! When the great day of His wrath has come, how miserable will be the condition of all who do not know His grace. To the repentant soul, this grace is indeed like dew on the grass! Both aspects are illustrated in Pharaoh’s dealing with his chief butler and his chief baker (Genesis 40).
The first line of this proverb correlates with Pro_17:25. How unhappy the home where both a foolish son and a contentious wife are found! They are very likely to be found together; for where the wife disputes her husband’s authority, siding with the children in opposition to his proper discipline, the effect on the home will be anything but good.
It is a very common thing to see parents disputing and wrangling before their household. The deadly result is that the sons and daughters learn to despise the father’s authority and to defy the mother’s correction when she does attempt it. These children grow up with a lawless, disobedient spirit, bent on having their own way and persisting in their refusal to submit to proper discipline. Christian parents may well ponder the instructions given to each in Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, and 1 Peter 3. The contentious wife is illustrated in Michal, the daughter of Saul (2Sa_6:16-23 and 1Ch_15:29).
See Pro_18:22. One may inherit house and wealth, but none can give a prudent wife but the Lord. It is God who joins man and woman together and therefore forbids man to separate that union. He who said at the beginning, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him,” (Gen_2:18) is still concerned about His people’s happiness. Therefore the man of faith can safely trust God to give him the appropriate life-partner. It is when one chooses for himself, relying alone on his poor human judgment instead of waiting on God, that bitter mistakes are made which are often irremediable. To marry in Christ is not necessarily to marry in the Lord. Any marriage between Christians would be in Christ. Only when the will is obedient to the mind of God will marriage be in the Lord. See Rebekah’s case, and note how markedly Jehovah ordered all (Genesis 24).
See notes on Pro_12:24; Pro_13:4. Many of us fail to realize that idleness is sin. Time wasted must be accounted for at the judgment seat of Christ. Needed rest is, of course, very right and proper. Jesus Himself said to His disciples, “Come ye yourselves apart… and rest a while” (Mar_6:31). But idleness is quite different; laziness is trifling away opportunities that will never return. It is failing to appreciate the value of time. In a physical sense, the sluggard often experiences the pain of hunger; and spiritually, the same is also true. He who lacks godly energy and does not seek nourishment for his soul will come to poverty and experience the pangs of spiritual famine. See Paul’s words to both the Ephesian and Colossian saints (Eph_5:16; Col_4:5).
The truth of this verse is frequently presented in Scripture. It is, so to speak, a kindness to oneself to obey the commandment of the Lord. His Word is a word of life. To forsake it is to die. Therefore he who despises the ways of God and chooses to follow his own course is short-sighted indeed. He is sealing his own destruction and bringing down well-merited wrath on his own head. See Shimei (1Ki_2:36-46).
It is truly precious to contemplate Jehovah as the patron of the poor. He has left the poor in the world to test the hearts of those who have better provision. He accepts what is done with compassion to relieve the needy, as done for Himself. Money and goods given with loving pity to those in distress are not gone forever. He takes note of every penny and makes Himself responsible to see that all will be repaid; and we may be sure the interest will be greater far than could be realized in any other way. Genuine philanthropy is the result of true love to God. Those who have experienced the love of God in their lives will have a corresponding concern for all men. To do good is well-pleasing to the Lord. Generosity will not lose its reward, even if it is only giving a cup of cold water in His name. The widow of Zarephath was none the poorer for ministering to Elijah in his distress. She found instead an unfailing cruse of oil and an unending supply of meal (1Ki_17:10-16).
Discipline, firm but gracious, should characterize the home. Brutal punishments, even to endangering the life of the one chastised, are very wrong and opposed to the Spirit of God. Unloving chastisement can only harden, not recover, a wayward child. “Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath,” (Eph_6:4) is a needed admonition in many families. Unreasonable demands and punishments out of proportion to the offense committed should be diligently avoided. Many a child who might have been saved by careful, godly training in his earliest years, has been left to grow up in untrammeled freedom until the father thought he was old enough for chastisement. Then he became the subject of severe treatment that filled his heart with anger and alienated him for life from his well-meaning but exceedingly unwise parent.
“The iron hand in the velvet glove” has long been the symbol of strict discipline administered in grace. To leave a child to himself is to display a cruel indifference to the fate of one committed to our care. To be heartless and unnecessarily severe in correcting him is the opposite extreme. The Word of God teaches the happy medium that produces the desired results. The child should come to realize that it is his good which is sought. Many irate fathers who merely vented their frustrations have lost the respect of their children. See Saul’s unwise treatment of Jonathan, which alienated his heart in place of winning his confidence (1Sa_20:30).
It is useless to rescue a man given to uncontrolled anger. By the intercessions of his friends he may be delivered from the unhappy consequences that would naturally have followed his outbursts of temper; but he is likely at any time to repeat his bad behavior. He will draw down righteous retribution on his own head and bring trouble and perhaps ruin on his defenders. See Pro_22:24. Such a man is evidently unbroken and lacking in the grace of self-judgment. He should be left to himself until he learns by punishment what he would not receive otherwise. Samuel found it hard to submit to this lesson; he only gave Saul up at last when the Lord distinctly commanded separation from him (1Sa_16:1).
To despise counsel is to play the part of the fool. He who is wise values instruction, especially when it comes from a person in authority. He knows that whatever man may plan and however wisely he may scheme, the counsel of the Lord is certain and will be duly carried out. God has said, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa_46:10). How vain the man who would dare to set himself in opposition to God’s wisdom and authority. Happy is he who, waiting on God for instruction, obeys implicitly His counsel, and therefore works for and with Him. See Joshua’s commission (Jos_1:1-9).
A kindly, benevolent spirit appeals to all men because it is unselfish and thoughtful of others. But to make great promises while unable to fulfill them is reprehensible. It is far better to be poor and frankly admit one’s inability to do what the heart might desire, than to promise largely and be proven untrustworthy. To be what you are, and not to pretend to be what you are not, is a sound principle. An honest person, even if poor, gains the respect of anyone whose good opinion is worth having. See Peter and the lame man (Act_3:6).
This verse is a synoptic statement of the precious truth unfolded in Psalm 91-the portion of the man who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, abiding under the shadow of the Almighty. He who fears the Lord has no anxious concerns as he rests in the enjoyment of God’s omnipotent power and unchanging love. He can rest satisfied, knowing that he cannot be visited with evil; all things must work together for the good of one who is trusting God. What seems to be evil will become a means of blessing by causing the heart to cling more closely to the God of all grace. See Paul’s song of triumph in Rom_8:28-39.
Having the very means of sustenance before him, the sluggard is too lethargic to avail himself of it. The figure used may seem almost absurdly exaggerated, but it is meant to picture a most extreme case. Though seated at the table with nourishing food in his hand, the eater is overcome by drowsiness; he prefers to abandon himself to ease and sleep rather than rouse himself to take his meal. The Word of God is a feast for the soul. Unfortunately, many sluggards, with abundant opportunity to feed on its precious wisdom, are too indifferent to search and find its treasures for themselves. Eglon, king of Moab, appears to have been this type of man (Jdg_3:17-25).
To allow a mocker to go unrebuked could put a snare before the feet of the simple, who might conclude that the mocker’s expression of contempt was irresistible because it was not refuted. It is therefore right and proper to punish him who opposes the truth by exposing before all the fallacies of his position. If he is wise, it will be no hardship to be reproved because, in his wisdom, he values truth more than his own dignity. See Paul’s word to Timothy regarding those who are perverted (1Ti_5:20).
See Pro_19:13 of this chapter. Bitter indeed are the sorrows a rebellious son brings on his parents. Such a child is the incarnation of selfishness. He will ruin his father, spending all his substance for self-gratification. In his stubbornness, he will even drive his mother from him, refusing all correction. Shame and disgrace are thereby brought upon their name; but he is supremely indifferent to all this. Determined to be free from all restraint, he recklessly plunges on to his doom. This is a sad, sad picture, often duplicated in this unhappy world. It is especially characteristic of the last days in which we now live (2Ti_3:2).
This is a far-reaching command of vast importance. It is an evidence of youthful pride for one to suppose he can listen to all kinds of theories, good and evil, but be defiled by none. Spiritual eclecticism may seem to be characterized by open-mindedness and liberality; but it generally ends by destroying faith. You can only recognize and avoid error when the truth of God is known and delighted in. Therefore it is vital to earnestly and diligently study the Scriptures. When someone proclaims what is contrary to God’s revealed word, it is time to refute him and his teaching. You cannot afford to trifle with unholy doctrine.
Remember that what is opposed to the teaching of the unerring Word of God is directly from Satan. To dabble with it is to expose yourself to its powerful influence. Therefore refuse to hear it.
One simple question is all that needs to be asked of anyone taking the position of a spiritual instructor, in order to detect the bias of his doctrine. It is this: “What think ye of Christ?” (Mat_22:42) He who is unsound on the nature of Christ is wrong throughout. If the true deity, or divinity, of the Lord Jesus be denied; if the atoning efficacy of His blood be explained away; if the sinlessness of His spotless humanity be in any way clouded, the system is wrong at the foundation, and it will prove to be unsound in all else.
‘What think ye of Christ?’ is the test
To try both your state and your scheme.
You cannot be right in the rest,
Unless you think rightly of Him.
For a Christian to continue to hear or support a man who blasphemes his Lord is treason of the darkest hue. If one does not teach the doctrine of Christ, he is to be refused and no fellowship shown him, because he abides in the darkness; and “what fellowship… hath light with darkness?” (2Co_6:14) See the spiritualists of Isaiah’s day (Isa_8:19-20), and the Judaizers and Gnostics of the apostolic period (Tit_1:10-11; Col_2:8; 2Jn_1:9-10). All these groups are to be found in our times, multiplied a thousandfold. “From such turn away” (2Ti_3:5).
These verses present the solemn accounting that awaits an ungodly witness. In this world he mocks justice and correction. His mouth devours iniquity. Although he may be independent now, he will eventually have to learn that God has prepared judgments for him and stripes for his back. Deceit and transgression may seem to go unchecked for a time; but the blow will soon fall that will cause the worthless witness to realize that God cannot be trifled with forever. See Ananias and Sapphira (Act_5:1-11).