A Proverb a day, with commentary from H.A. Ironside, a great Bible teacher from the mid-20th Century.
Procrastination is a snare that often results in ruin. The first verse of this chapter solemnly warns every reader against this error.
The present is given man in order that he may plan wisely for the future. To defer until tomorrow what should be attended to today is a sad mistake that has destroyed untold thousands. The old Spanish proverb says, “The road of by and by leads to the house of never,” while another trite saying reads, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The English are fond of quoting, “Procrastination is the thief of time;” and it is likely that every nation has some maxim intended to remind one of the warning of our verse. Yet, how prone we all are to leave for tomorrow matters that should be settled at once!
In nothing is this matter of procrastination more evident than in regard to the great question of the salvation of the soul. Again and again Scripture impresses on men the importance of an immediate settlement of this matter of tremendous consequence. “To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” (Heb_3:7-8; 2Co_6:2; Isa_1:18). These are but a few of many such calls to urgent decision.
Yet what is more common than to find people putting off a final settlement, like Festus, until a “more convenient season,” which in many instances is never found! The uncertainty of health, reason, and of life itself all loudly cry, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow.”
Pharaoh said “tomorrow” when he should have said “today,” and the morrow found his heart as hard as a millstone, beyond the reach of repentance or concern (Exo_8:10).
If the reader is unsaved, let me remind him of five important reasons why he should not delay in coming to Christ.
First-Every day spent in sin is a day lost. The only true life is that which is lived for God. Those who are saved always regret not having turned to the Lord earlier; they find true joy and peace in the path of the just, which shines ever brighter and brighter to the perfect day.
Second-Every day spent in procrastination is adding to the terrible number of things you can never undo. It is often forgotten by the young that even though saved and forgiven at last, the consequences of their sins will never be blotted out. We have an influence on others today for good or ill and a future change of ways may never utterly destroy that influence. Sin leaves its effect on our minds and bodies-an effect that lasts through all time. A father meaning to impress this fact on his son told him to drive a handful of nails part way into a clean, smooth post. With great delight the lad did as he was bidden. “Now, my boy,” said the father, “draw them out.” This was soon successfully accomplished. “Now take out the holes,” was the next command. “Why, father,” exclaimed the child, “that is impossible!” So we may think of the forgiveness of our sins as a drawing out of the nails; but, let us never forget that the marks remain. Therefore the wisdom of ceasing at once to do what can never be undone.
Third-It is possible that at any moment conviction of sin may pass away from the troubled soul and that God may cease to speak to you by His Holy Spirit. Many a man or woman has, by long resisting the Holy Ghost, reached a point where, like Pharaoh, the heart refused to respond to further entreaties or warnings. Such people are often said to be “gospel-hardened,” and the designation is all too correct.
Fourth-Before tomorrow, Death may claim you for his prey. Even as you read these lines, he may be feeling for your heart-strings. David said, “There is but a step between me and death” (1Sa_20:3); and so it is with any of us. Before tomorrow, sinner, your lips may be silent, your heart be still, your form be cold, and your soul in Hell!
Last of all, you should not forget that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming again. He may return from Heaven to call all His redeemed away (according to 1Th_4:13-18) before you lay down this book. No event has to transpire, no prophecy to be fulfilled before that great and solemn moment arrives. “In such an hour as ye think not” (Mat_24:44), the day of grace may be brought to a close, and the days of vengeance begin for all who have rejected, or merely neglected, so great a salvation.
Knowing not what a single day may bring forth, it is surely wise to turn at once to God, admitting your sins and trusting His grace!
Self-praise always indicates poor nurturing and a lack of realization of proper conduct. If others praise you, go on humbly looking to God to keep you in a spirit of meekness and lowliness; for you know far more about your own failings than any other can. Boasting in your attainments or abilities is obnoxious and opens the door to severe criticism. See the men of Ephraim and Manasseh (Jos_17:14-15).
A fool’s wrath is so heavy because of its unreasonableness. He will listen to no explanations and will view with malice and suspicion all attempts to appease him. Better far to leave such a man to himself than to argue with him, for he is incapable of sound judgment. Treat an angry fool as Hezekiah commanded his nobles to act towards Rab-shakeh (Isa_36:21).
The anger referred to in the previous verse s a brief tempest of the mind, a passing emotion. It is to be dreaded while it lasts; but jealousy is to be feared far more, for it lingers when all outward evidence of it has disappeared. “Jealousy is cruel as the grave” (Son_8:6). See the brothers of Joseph (Genesis 37).
True love will lead me to be faithful to my brother even when his steps are declining from the path of moral virtue. While avoiding a fault-finding spirit, I will seek to recover his soul if he has gone astray. In so doing, I may have to wound him, but such pains are faithful. Reproof in grace is better far than love kept concealed, which forbids my drawing his attention to his faults. An enemy may lavish kisses and tokens of affection at such a time, overlooking the evil and bolstering the wrongdoer up in his unrighteous cause, but they are deceitful evidences of love, like the kiss of Judas. How faithful was Paul to Peter and Barnabas and to the beloved Galatians, dear as all assuredly were to him (Galatians 1 and 2).
The verse has been paraphrased as follows: “The pampered glutton loathes even luxurious food; but he who is really hungry, will eat even indifferent food with a high relish.” Hunger stimulates appetite and enjoyment for what would otherwise be despised. To many, the Word of God is one of these bitter things; but when the soul is hungry it becomes sweet as honey. See the little books eaten by Ezekiel and John (Eze_3:1-4; Rev_10:9-10).
The Lord has given “to every man his work,” and we may also say to every man his place. “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him” (1Co_12:18). He who fills his appointed niche in dependence on the Lord and maintains his proper place will find rich blessing. But as a bird that wanders from its nest exposes itself to danger and suffering, so is it with him who turns away from his sphere.
Looking at it in another way, we may apply the principle to life within the church. God would have all His children gather together in the peerless name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who wanders from the joy and blessedness of this fellowship because of imagined insults or any other cause is like a homeless bird that has forsaken its nest. See Demas (2Ti_4:10).
In a warm, dry atmosphere and an enervating climate like that of Palestine, it is very soothing and invigorating to be anointed with oil. Sweet and stimulating perfumes are employed to rouse the inactive sensitivities and bring welcome refreshment. Loving, solicitous counsel on the part of a true friend is as refreshing and stimulating to the soul as oil and perfume are to the body. Happy is the man who has a friend to advise him in this way. David found such a friend in Jonathan.
When grief and calamity fall suddenly, it is far better to have a tried friend like this to turn to, than to be dependent on relations, however near, who may lack the heart and affection of a close companion. Time and distance are powerful forces for the weakening of family ties, as many have learned to their sorrow. Each should know that Friend who sticks closer than a brother! See notes on Pro_17:17; Pro_18:24.
The obedience and careful behavior of a wise son reflects positively on his solicitous parent. If the child is willful and disobedient the father will be reproached for not properly training his offspring. The admonition is important for us as “sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.” By walking worthy of Him who hath called us, we will glorify our Savior-God and Father before men. How often do wicked men reproach Him for the follies of His children! David’s sin caused the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, and therefore the child of Bathsheba had to die (2Sa_12:14).
This verse is a repetition of Pro_22:3. See previous notes. In this proverb we read a warning to the unsaved. How great must be the concern of the God you are neglecting that He reminds you again of the importance of considering your future and hiding yourself in Christ before judgment comes and it is too late. If you pass carelessly on to your well-deserved doom after this second warning, “What wilt thou say when He shall punish thee?” (Jer_13:21)
This too is a repetition of an earlier proverb (Pro_20:16). It is not mere chance that caused the friends of Hezekiah to repeat several of Solomon’s wise sayings in this way. It is rather God’s way of bringing to our attention the importance of the instruction they contain. He who neglects such abundant wisdom is truly guilty and deserves no sympathy when he has to reap as he sowed.
There is a vein of easily perceived irony in these words. One who declares his affection beneath one’s window, with loud tones early in the morning, when the object of his attentions is resting, is utterly obnoxious and his blessing becomes instead a curse. Blatant unsolicited words of praise are always to be dreaded. They generally demonstrate insincerity of heart and a lack of sensitivity that is most repugnant to a quiet, humble person. The Italians say, “He who praises you more than he is wont to do, either has deceived you, or is about to do it.” See Absalom and the men of Israel (2Sa_15:1-6).
See notes on Pro_21:9; Pro_21:19. No better comment could be written on the first of these verses than Dr. Thompson’s description of a Palestine rainstorm. He says: “Such rains as we have had thoroughly soak through the flat earthen roofs of these mountain houses, and the water descends in numberless leaks all over the room. This continual dropping-tuk, tuk-all day and all night, is the most annoying thing in the world, unless it be the ceaseless chatter of a contentious woman.” He who endeavors to hide the fact that such a disagreeable person shares his home is like one who tries to hide the wind or who seeks to keep people from detecting the fragrance of perfume when his right hand is covered with it. Ahasuerus considered Vashti as having offended in this way when she shamed him before all his nobles by defying his command (Est_1:10-20).
By friction, one iron instrument is sharpened and polished when rubbed with another; so we may be a help to each other by interesting and profitable exchange of thought. A recluse is always a very one-sided man. He who would be a blessing to others must mingle with them that he may learn to understand their needs and their sorrows. He may gain much wisdom by their superior knowledge or virtues. Among Christians, fellowship one with another is precious indeed and becomes increasingly sweet as the days grow darker. How profitable to Timothy was the association with Paul (2Ti_3:10-11).
Even as the caretaker of the fig tree would be entitled to enjoy its fruit, so faithfulness in our appointed service has its rewards. Let the Christian remember that his Master is in Heaven, and that he who honors and obeys Him in this the day of His rejection, will be honored when the day of Christ has come. Meantime let him labor on, strong in faith, giving glory to God, and the harvest is sure, as with the hard-working farmer of 2Ti_2:6.
Of all mirrors, clear water is perhaps the most primitive. As the reflection portrays the face of him who is looking into it, so does one man’s heart reflect another’s. There is no difference. Men may seem to differ through hereditary characteristics, education, or the lack of it, environment, or experience; yet the fact remains that all have the same evil corrupt heart which is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. No one has ground for boasting over another. All are sinners needing a Savior.
Therefore, to show a man his sinfulness, I only need to describe in a measure the evil of my own heart; he is likely to think someone has privately informed me as to his faults and I am exposing him publicly! Often men have reasoned this way when some faithful preacher was declaring the terrible sinful nature of every human being!
It is a blessing to remember that since all are sinners alike, a Savior has been provided for all. See the “no difference” gospel as expounded by the Holy Spirit in Rom_10:5-13.
This verse helps to seal the truth of the previous one. In this all men are the same. The natural heart will not permit the eyes to be satisfied. There is in man an insatiable capacity likened to Hell. Let man accumulate as he may, he still yearns for more. This is the great lesson of the book of Ecclesiastes. There we find a man with a heart so large that all the world could not fill it. In the Song of Solomon, on the other hand, we have an object so great that the heart cannot hold it; the cry goes up, “I am sick of love” (Son_2:5). It is Christ alone who can meet every craving of the soul and more than satisfy all who find in Him the object of their deepest affections. See Pro_30:15-16.
There is no hotter crucible to test a man than when he is put through a fire of praise and adulation. To go on while being slandered, clinging to the Lord and counting on Him to clear one’s name is comparatively easy, though many weaken in such circumstances. But to humbly pursue the regular course of one’s life, undisturbed and unaffected by applause and flattery marks a truly godly man.
Hundreds have thrived spiritually when going through adverse circumstances, but have failed grievously in prosperous times. Gideon becomes a warning to all who are in danger of pride resulting from unmerited praise (Jdg_8:22-27).
Folly is bound up in the heart of the fool and after long years of willfulness it becomes part of his very being. To beat him as one beats grain in a mortar will not deliver him from his wickedness. In childhood the correction properly administered might have had good effect (Pro_22:15). But having permitted his character to develop itself, it is now too late to seek to eradicate the foolishness by corporal punishment. Nor will moral persuasion effect the desired result, for the fool is deaf to all entreaties and cares for nothing but doing his own pleasure. It is a dreadful state to be in. God alone can awaken such a one to a sense of his guilt and his danger and turn him from his folly. See Jer_13:23.
A shepherd’s faithful service results in suitable provision for himself and those dependent on him. Wealth is fleeting and riches soon pass away. See note on Pro_23:4-5. Therefore the importance of earnest persistent effort and careful adherence to duty. Even a crown does not last forever. Dynasties rise and fall in this world of changes. But he who plods on, conserving his resources and wisely attending to the care of his flocks will have both food and clothing; what more does the wealthiest enjoy?
We also may see in these verses a picture of pastoral care among the sheep and lambs of Christ’s flock. Christ told Peter to feed His lambs and shepherd His sheep. Wherever He has implanted the pastor’s heart this will be the result. A loving shepherd will look well to the state of the flock; not, however, with a view to pecuniary profit, nor as lording his position over his flock, but out of pure love for the members of Christ.
Nor will he be without reward. It is sure to come in the end, even though he does not labor for it. “When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (See 1Pe_5:1-4). In Jacob’s defense to Laban we are reminded of what this shepherd service may mean if carried out conscientiously (Gen_31:40).