A Proverb a day, with commentary from H.A. Ironside, a great Bible teacher from the mid-20th Century.
This chapter completes the second section of the book of Proverbs. It includes proverbs arranged directly by the wise king and evidently put into circulation before his death.
The first proverb in this chapter is a warning against falling into the snare that distracted the godly Asaph until he went into the sanctuary of the Lord (Psalm 73). See notes on Pro_23:17-18. When Asaph saw the end of the wicked, all his envious yearning vanished. How could a saint of God begrudge the worldly person his fleeting pleasures when judgment, like a dark and gloomy cloud, is lowering over his head!
Nor is that the only thing that makes their lot wretched. Their hearts and lips similarly are occupied in destruction and mischief. Who could be happy when so engaged? Disappointment and grief will always be the reward of those who hope to find happiness through iniquity. Scripture is replete with many instances of the final end of the wicked. For example, see the wretched life of Jehoram, king of Judah (2 Chronicles 21).
Filling the mind and heart with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding is like building a mansion on a solid foundation and filling it with costly treasures. In the same way the life of the wise is beautifully adorned, bringing joy to him and delight to his companions. He who has the wisdom that comes from above will never be poor. See Jam_3:17-18.
See notes on Pro_20:18. There is an intimate connection between these verses and those just preceding. Wisdom makes its possessor strong, however inferior he may be in other respects to his adversaries.
The meaning of the expression “make thy war” (kjv) is evidently “make successful warfare,” or “war to thine advantage.”
The wise man does not act rashly. As he goes out to meet the enemy, he takes advantage of the counsel and experience of others. He is not an egotist. His safety is in his willingness to hear what others soberly present. Our Lord may have had these words in mind, as also those of Pro_24:27, when He instructed His disciples as to the importance of counting the cost, before beginning to build or going out to a conflict (Luk_14:28-32). See the poor wise man of Ecc_9:14-16.
Unwilling to repent of his evil-doing, the fool is unable to attain wisdom. Therefore he is speechless when the hour of his judgment comes. See the man who ignored the wedding garment (Mat_22:11-13).
What rich grace led Jesus, the eternal wisdom, to be as a lamb, dumb before the shearers, when He stood “in the gate” to take the judgment for His own (Isa_53:7).
Evil thoughts, said our Lord, come from the heart, and indicate a person’s moral pollution. He who allows his mind to indulge in evil desires is full of mischief. His thoughts of folly are sinful, whether put into execution or not; for thoughts as well as deeds will be judged when the secrets of men’s hearts are laid bare. Men will give account for thoughts as well as for words and actions. The scoffer is one who permits the foolishness of his heart to control his lips. He ridicules holy things, as did Pharaoh when he asked, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?” (Exo_5:2)
The hour of trial demonstrates the spiritual strength one really has. To faint or become disheartened indicates that one has not been truly counting on God for deliverance. The hour of trial and opposition will find the trusting soul more confident still, for he knows the source of all power. Contrast Elijah when threatened by Jezebel with David when the people spoke of stoning him (1Ki_19:2-4; 1Sa_30:6).
These verses seem to refer to a mode of execution once prevalent in Syria and Palestine. Muenscher says, “When a criminal was anciently led to execution, a crier went before, who proclaimed the crime of which he had been convicted, and called upon any one who could say anything in behalf of the condemned culprit, to come forward; in which case, he was led back to the tribunal and the cause was re-heard.” To selfishly withhold information that could save the condemned man’s life, would be to stand with Cain and ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen_4:9) But the great Judge of all who ponders the heart would be witness against the one who acted so perfidiously and would assuredly render judgment.
What can be said of Christians who know millions are passing on to eternal sorrow, yet scarcely ever make known God’s message of justification through the Lord Jesus Christ? Almost nineteen centuries have passed since Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mar_16:15). How many millions have not heard the gospel message, because we who are so richly blessed have so little heart to carry the word of reconciliation to them?
Even when some have been ready to go, there is amazing lethargy among those who could afford to assist them. Therefore only by great self-denial can these missionaries reach and remain in the needy fields, already white to the harvest.
Let us not forget that we will yet have to answer to God for our insensitivity. He will not ignore the self-seeking, the worldly-mindedness, the positive indifference that has led His people to neglect the carrying of His gospel “into all the world.”
The cry of those ready to be slain rises up to His ear day and night while they wait for a deliverer. Be it ours then, not to say “we knew it not,” but to rise to our privileges and help to spread abroad the saving word in every way we can. See Ezekiel, the watchman to Israel (Eze_33:1-12).
As honey is delightful to the palate, so Wisdom will be to the soul devoted to her. In Pro_5:3 we found the strange woman simulating this; but though her lips “drop as an honeycomb,” they who follow her pernicious ways will have bitterness in the latter end. On the contrary, Wisdom promises an assured reward; an expectation that will not result in disappointment. The one who earnestly seeks understanding will never be put to shame. See the account of Cornelius (Acts 10).
The wicked rejoice in iniquity and are glad at the calamities of the righteous. But though the just man stumbles frequently, he will be lifted up again, for “God is able to make him stand” (Rom_14:4). The sevenfold fall may refer either to what are commonly called misfortunes or to moral lapses brought on through spiritual carelessness; for if the saint of God becomes careless, he is as weak as other men. But where grace has worked in the soul, there will be recovery; while the one who makes an insincere profession will return like a dog to his vomit or like a sow to her wallowing in the mire, thus becoming overwhelmed with evil (2Pe_2:20-22). Contrast Peter with Judas (Mat_26:75; Mat_27:3-5). Compare this proverb with Psa_34:18-22.
Love does not gloat over the sorrows of others, even though their adversities may be richly deserved. Remembering that he is himself a subject of grace, the humble, contrite soul walks softly, having tears, not sneers, for the afflictions of his enemies. The eye of Jehovah will note when the attitude is otherwise; He will see that he who is glad at calamities will not go unpunished. This was what provoked God’s wrath against Edom (Oba_1:12-16) and turned His anger away from Jacob to Esau. See notes on Pro_17:5.
Compare this proverb with Pro_24:1. There is no reason to be either troubled because of evil men or to envy their present estate. They have no power or might, unless for a brief time it is delegated by the God of the righteous; their wealth and prosperity is only for a moment and will soon vanish away forever, leaving them poorer than the poorest. No reward for all their toil on earth awaits them in eternity. Their lamp will go out in darkness as they fall beneath the awful judgment of the God whose holiness they have despised and whose grace they have refused. See the judgment that fell on Herod (Act_12:20-23).
All who know the Lord should be subject to God, and therefore to the earthly powers that are ordained by Him. Those who are rebellious disturb the peace and order of society by plotting against the established government. In the church such men also arise who would overturn all godly order and trouble the minds of the saints. Their capacity for evil will be greatly hindered if they are avoided. In worldly commonwealths, Christians are subjects, not rulers. Therefore we are exhorted to render to Caesar what belongs to him, not joining in with political changes and social upheavals. To fail to obey the word of God in this matter will involve the unwise saint in many a snare; then when the overthrow of the revolutionary leader comes suddenly, the misery of both the rebel and his followers will be great. See the outcome of the insurrections of Theudas and Judas of Galilee (Act_5:36-37).
Pro_24:23 to the end of the chapter seems to be a kind of appendix to the book as originally written. This is indicated by the introductory sentence “These things also belong to the wise” (Pro_24:23). Four subjects are taken up in this additional section, all of which have been previously treated. The topics are the evil of showing partiality in judgment; counting the cost; prejudiced witness; and slothfulness.
Pro_24:23-26 treat the first topic. He who defends the wicked brings hatred upon himself. He will draw down on his head the indignation of the upright. But he who condemns the guilty will earn the respect of the people and receive their blessing. All will “kiss his lips” who gives a just sentence. Among Eastern nations, the kiss was a symbolic act denoting affection and esteem.
Solomon himself is perhaps the best illustration in Scripture of the righteous judge until “He shall come whose right it is to reign, and to execute justice throughout the whole earth” (1 Kings 2 and 1Ki_3:16-28).
We have already noticed that the discourse of our Lord recorded in Luk_14:28-32 may have had reference to the principle enunciated in Pro_24:6. That proverb was illustrated in His words about the king going out to battle without proper advice. Pro_24:27 may have also been in our Lord’s mind as it finds its counterpart and fuller explanation in the warning drawn from the account of the man who began to build and was not able to finish. It is wise to count the cost, lest the undertaking be too great and prove but a monument of folly in the end. Such a reminder was the tower of Babel, which overconfident men began sacrilegiously to build, but were unable to complete (Gen_11:1-9).
To testify against one’s neighbor in order to accomplish his ruin and procure revenge, because of real or imagined wrong, is improper for a saint of God. The man of faith need not be concerned about defending his good name; he certainly will not be found falsely accusing his neighbor, however much he has suffered through him. He can quietly leave all his circumstances in the hands of Him who will ever vindicate His faithful servants.
An important point is reached in the experience of a believer when he learns to look beyond all second causes to God Himself. Only then can he say, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content” (Php_4:11). The apostle described a mind and soul that is content to know His will is being carried out, despite all efforts of the enemy to thwart it. This attitude elicits a wonderful victory over the natural propensity to see in our circumstances cause for complaint, dissatisfaction, and revenge.
See the remarks as to David’s behavior towards Shimei in the notes on Pro_20:22.
This graphic portrayal of the sluggard’s field was given as by an eyewitness who stood sadly gazing on it and pondering as he viewed its desolation. Thorns and nettles were flourishing, but there was no fruit. The wall was broken down and everything spoke of lack of care and slothful indifference. May we too gaze on it and consider it well!
Pro_24:33-34 are the musings of his heart as he meditated on the unhappy scene. The sluggard was sleeping when he should have been laboring. The hour is approaching when he will be aroused by poverty coming like a man on a journey and want like a soldier in full armor. But the sluggard will be awakened too late to realize that his wasted opportunities have gone beyond recall. See the spiritual lesson of these verses as noted in Pro_6:10-11; Pro_20:4.
This warning against laziness closes the book as first set forth, unless chapters 30 and 31 attributed to Agur and Lemuel were then part of it. If so, the next section was inserted in its present place by divine guidance when the work was issued in its final complete form.