Verse 1: A separatist mindset can be good or bad: believers must be separate from the world in the way they live, but even in this city we have believers who separate from believers because the other believers aren’t “good enough.” Be careful.
Verse 2: We are all opinionated are to some extent, and we all probably want to be thought of as smart or wise. It’s easy to act like a know-it-all when we really know little to nothing about what we’re talking about. But we’re fools if we have no desire to understand the truth of a matter.
Verse 3: It is only natural that sorrow and shame follow sin; where there is a wicked leader, wickedness prevails.
Verse 4: Good words are always beneficial; we can all probably remember a really great talk we heard, one that really helped and that stayed with us over the years. We may even have a favorite speaker that we really enjoy listening to. Our words can be of great help to those around us, but as we’ll see in a couple of verses, our words can also get us in trouble.
Verse 5: It is important to look at the merits of a cause instead of the person, and to judge rightly instead of by favor one way or another. To their credit, the Supreme Court of the United States still works like this (for now, fortunately). There was an example a few years ago where one of our former Republican governors here in Virginia was involved in a case that reached the Supreme Court, and all eight justices, even the most liberal ones, ruled in his favor. If the justices and judges in this country can put aside politics and rule in “righteousness,” for lack of a better term, how much more should we, who are brothers and sisters of the coming King who will rule in righteousness?
Verses 6-7: There is an old saying by President Abraham Lincoln: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Verse 8: Not everything that is true needs to be said either. This same book also says that it is good to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11); this obviously does not mean that anything goes, but it does mean that not every little thing has to be addressed. It’s quite the contrast, isn’t it, to the country we live in now, where every little thing offends someone, and you’re better off never saying anything because someone somewhere will want to shut you up at all costs.
Verse 9: Sometimes not doing the right thing is just as bad, or even worse, than doing wrong. We cannot get by just by avoiding bad; we also have to do what is right.
Verses 10-11: For the rich, their money is their defense. We cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24). Paul says that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).” We know that money is important; we have to have it in today’s world; there’s no way around it. But it cannot and will not save us; only the name of the Lord can.
Verse 12: We have all heard the saying, “Pride goes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18).” Probably the wisest thing Ahab ever said was, “Let not him that puts on his armor boast as he who takes it off (1 Kings 20:11).” In other words, “Don’t act like you’ve won until you’ve won.” We see this in the sporting world all the time; one example that sticks out most was the Miracle on Ice in the 1980 Winter Olympics, when the mighty Soviets lost to a team of college players from the USA.
The second part of this verse says that before honor is humility; Jesus repeated this when he said that those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:12).
Verse 13: How often do we see this in action in this country? “Did you hear what the President said?” “No, I’ll bet it was real bad though, what an idiot!” “There are two sides to every story,” right? How often are the people who preach love the first to practice hatred, and how often are people who preach “don’t judge” the first to condemn? James says to be swift to hear, and slow to speak (James 1:19). Solomon later says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter (Proverbs 25:2).”
Verse 14: Heartache is the worst kind of ache; I’ll take a toothache or a stomachache any day. One chapter earlier, Solomon says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22).” When you’re going through something in your mind, it can be far worse than any physical ailment.
Verse 15: Isaiah says to seek the Lord while he may be found (Isaiah 55:6).
Verse 16: Fortunately for us, we can come before the Lord without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1). We don’t have to pay money to gain his approval, and certainly not to be forgiven of our sins. He offers us a free gift (Romans 6:23).
Verse 17: It’s easy to tell our own story, until someone comes along and proves us wrong. Humans tend to be right in their own eyes.
Verse 18: The disposal of the lot (or, in our day, the flip of the coin) is of the Lord (Proverbs 16:33). Look at Esther; when the Pur was cast to decide which month to kill the Jews in, it landed in the last possible month, giving Esther and the Jews as much time as possible (Esther 3:13, 9:24).
Verse 19: It can be extremely difficult to want to trust someone again after they hurt you. I know that from experience; even when you forgive someone, it can still be extremely hard to want to speak with them, or even be in their presence, for a very long time.
Verses 20-21: James says that the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue has more power than any other organ in the body; it’s actually, believe it or not, your strongest organ. Do you think that’s on purpose? I think it’s safe to say that no other organ will keep as many people out of the Kingdom as the tongue. There are consequences for what we say. So “let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6),” says Paul.
Verse 22: We live in a world where marriage is looked at as more of a burden than a joy. All of us have been to a wedding (even if your own wedding was the only one you have been to). In the majority of weddings I’ve been to, the bride and the groom exchanged vows, usually promising love and devotion “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do we part.” They made a vow, a covenant. But as you may know, in this country, the divorce rate is over fifty percent; more than half of all marriages are headed for divorce; there’s infidelity, there’s fighting, and so many more reasons to get a divorce. Moses allowed Israel to get divorced because of the hardness of their hearts; they were too stubborn to work out differences. Interestingly enough, there is not one instance of a divorce in our Bibles. God hates divorce; he hates it so much, he says that even if you are married to an unbeliever, stay with them (1 Corinthians 7:12-13).
I’m not one to pay any attention to celebrity gossip, but I did happen to see a story recently that burned me up; it was about a musician and his wife who mutually decided to get divorced; the musician, Logic, said, “After two years of marriage, we have come to the loving conclusion that we are much better as friends…it’s very simple: it just didn’t work out. There is no anger involved. No fighting, no cheating, no nothing. We love each other and will continue to support each other for the rest of our lives.” That’s how little marriage means in this world; it’s almost like a lease or a “free trial” where you can just get out of it if you don’t like it anymore. How do you think someone like Larry King views marriage?
Now let’s look at this verse for what it says, that whoso finds a wife finds a good thing (and it can of course be used in the feminine, that whoso finds a husband finds a good thing), and obtains favor from the Lord. If you grew up as a Christadelphian, which is most of us here but not all, and you went to Bible Schools, gatherings, other social events, if you were anything like me, one thing you probably had on your mind was “I wonder if Jenny is going to be there…” or, better yet, you know she’s going to be there; you’re all nervous and excited at the same time. Most, if not all of us, can remember those days. And of course, when we were younger, crushes didn’t mean a whole lot: you like the girl, she likes you, you get hi-fives from all your buddies back in your room that night, and then the next day, she has a crush on someone else. And obviously as you got older, it was a bit more serious; if you had the opportunity, you spent as much time with that person as you could, you really got to know them and kept in touch and developed an actual relationship. Unless you were really fortunate and you struck gold on your first try, most of them didn’t work out. But those of you who are now married can certainly agree that the Lord has given you something very good; it’s something to keep in mind when times are tough, that what you have in your marriage is from the Lord.
There’s a movie called “Fireproof”—I would highly recommend it to anyone; it’s about a Christian couple who is having marital problems, and the husband turns to the Bible to help him repair his marriage. Scripture is full of examples and guidelines for a good marriage.
Hosea was a prophet who was instructed by the Lord to marry a whore, as a living parable of Israel. Ironically enough though, even though this is about Israel, the Lord gives a list of things that we look for when finding someone to marry: “And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord (Hosea 2:19-20).”
Proverbs 31:10-31 describes the “Virtuous Woman;” who can find her? Whoso does, has found a good thing, and has obtained favor from the Lord.
Verse 23: When you are in need, you find yourself a lot more humble than when you are rich. In comparison to the Lord, we are pretty low ourselves; we can’t demand anything, so we have to intreat.
Verse 24: Having a lot of friends can be good; but usually not all of them stay around when trouble comes. Thinking back to high school, there’s only one friend who I still talk to. Even in the truth, the great and vast majority of people I used to spend so much time with, they’re gone; we’ve grown apart. But like I said, there’s a couple who have always been there.
Jesus is a friend and a brother; he says we are his friends if we do what he commands us (John 15:14).