Gardening the Heart

I went by the field of a slacker
and by the vineyard of a man lacking sense.
Thistles had come up everywhere,
weeds covered the ground,
and the stone wall was ruined.
I saw, and took it to heart;
I looked, and received instruction:
a little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the arms to rest,
and your poverty will come like a robber,
your need, like a bandit. Proverbs 24:30-34 HCSB

For at least my lifetime (unfortunately, I can’t remember much before then), my grandfather has had a HUGE vegetable garden. And it’s always been immaculate. He harvests enough food to feed dozens of people, and he loves to give his produce away. He even has so much that my parents and aunts have to be careful about mentioning anything garden-related, or they’ll have five years’ worth waiting for them when they get home.

In pretty much every respect, Pop is the polar opposite of the slacker in Proverbs 24. Pop’s garden is weeded and gorgeous. The plants are vibrant and healthy, and the rows are neat and straight. He really does make it look easy, but there’s a great amount of effort expended in getting a garden to that point, and then keeping it there.

I know, because the garden I had a couple of years ago was nothing like his. At. All.

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Fig Leaf Couture

Whoever lives with integrity fears Yahweh,
but the one who is devious in his ways despises Him. Proverbs 14:2 HCSB

One of the ways we play with my daughter is to “hide! hide! hide!” with her under a blanket, while the other one of us “sneaks up” on who is “hiding.” The absurdity of hiding under a blanket is the precise grounds of its cuteness (especially since the blanket can’t suppress the giggles underneath).

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Hello, my name is…

The remembrance of the righteous is a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot. Proverbs 10:7 HCSB

A good name is to be chosen over great wealth;
favor is better than silver and gold. Proverbs 22:1 HCSB

I remember having a wooden plaque painted like a baseball hanging in my room as a kid. It had my name in big letters and Proverbs 22:1 written out underneath. I think it may have even had “crowned one” underneath my name (stephanos is the Greek name for Stephen/Steven and means “crowned one,” or so it claimed).

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Lady and the Tramp

The book of Proverbs has an extended introduction that lays the foundation for the actual proverbs that begin in chapter 10. In this introduction, Solomon pleads with his sons (and his readers) to grasp the necessity and immeasurable value of wisdom. To do this, he often personifies wisdom and folly (or foolishness) as women appealing for a hearing. Wisdom is a distinguished, elegant, beautiful woman who is as hard-working as she is graceful. Folly is, to put it bluntly, a skanky bimbo. Continue reading “Lady and the Tramp”

The Dog Ate Them an Hour Ago

Don’t envy a violent man
or choose any of his ways;
for the devious are detestable to Yahweh,
but He is a friend to the upright. Proverbs 3:31-32 HCSB

Don’t let your heart envy sinners;
instead, always fear Yahweh. Proverbs 23:17 HCSB

Don’t envy evil men
or desire to be with them,
for their hearts plan violence,
and their words stir up trouble. Proverbs 24:1 HCSB

Don’t worry because of evildoers,
and don’t envy the wicked.
For the evil have no future;
the lamp of the wicked will be put out. Proverbs 24:19-20 HCSB

As a dog returns to its vomit,
so a fool repeats his foolishness. Proverbs 26:11 HCSB

For Solomon and the Sages, there is a universe of topics to cover in conveying what a life of wisdom looks like. The proverb format lends itself well to covering a broad spectrum of subjects; proverbs are pithy, memorable statements that engage the imagination and teach much in few words (unlike my definition).

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Faith vs. Sight, Wisdom vs. Foolishness

Trust in Yahweh with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
Don’t consider yourself to be wise;
fear Yahweh and turn away from evil (Proverbs 3:5-7 HCSB)

Proverbs 3:5-6 have been loved and memorized by saints immemorial, and it’s easy to see why. In Solomon’s expected pithy power, he reminds us of the need to live by faith and not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

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What Polar Opposites Have in Common

The poor and the oppressor have this in common:
Yahweh gives light to the eyes of both.

Proverbs 29:13 HCSB

Once again, Solomon masterfully uses comparison and contrast to condense so much wisdom into a single two-line proverb. Reading Proverbs helps renew the sense of wonder at God’s immense wisdom, but also at His immense artistry. What incredible skill it is to say so much in such a pithy little statement! Continue reading “What Polar Opposites Have in Common”

Tools in the Toolbox

The wicked flee when there is no one pursuing them,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

Proverbs 28:1 HCSB

Proverbs often convey wisdom by means of comparison and contrast, and the above verse is no different. The contrast here is between abject terror and an unshakable confidence, and Solomon tells us that the wicked are wet-their-pants afraid while the righteous are fearless lions.

What is Solomon driving at here? This proverb seems to be easily disproven; for one, I am often wet-my-pants afraid (thankfully not literally), while the disobedient are confident and established. How should we make sense of this?

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Cudgels and Scalpels

The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive, but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness. Proverbs 15:2 HCSB

Particularly in our time under the undisputed reign of “Science,” this proverb is extremely helpful. Many people it seems–both believers and unbelievers alike–think and speak as though the difference between them is merely one of knowledge. Unbelievers claim that believing in God is a willful rejection of what “science” “knows”; many believers can fall into the trap of thinking that simply presenting alternative views and analyses of data could change unbelievers’ minds. Even between believers, addressing sin and breaking patterns of rebellion or temptation or believing lies can be approached in a horribly ham-handed fashion if we think that mere knowledge is enough.

Knowledge by itself is not compelling. If I am in sin, I probably know that it’s sin and wrong and that I should stop. Simply presenting those facts–which are all completely true–won’t change my heart. When Ken Ham presented facts to Bill Nye, the Science Guy was not convinced. Simple exposure is not enough (which Ken Ham agrees with, by the way).

This is why Proverbs is a book of wisdom, not mere knowledge. Wisdom takes knowledge and faithfully presents it so that knowledge is compelling and attractive. Wisdom makes knowledge winsome.

The difference here is one we are all familiar with, and likely familiar with from both perspectives. We have probably been the one wielding facts like a cudgel, and we have probably been the one beaten senseless with that same cudgel. It’s the difference between a know-it-all and a teacher; it’s the difference between the Lord Jesus and a Pharisee.

Repeatedly, Proverbs urges us to get knowledge; with equal force it pleads for us to get wisdom so that we may know how to wield that knowledge with skill and discernment, like a living and active, two-edged surgeon’s scalpel.

The Honey Rule

If you find honey, eat only what you need;
otherwise, you’ll get sick from it and vomit.
Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house;
otherwise, he’ll get sick of you and hate you.

— Proverbs 25:16-17 HCSB

The book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom, and that in multiple respects. It is a book containing wisdom, one that intends to convey that wisdom to all who hear its call. It is also a book that, as it gives wisdom, requires that wisdom in order to obtain even more treasures of wisdom. John A. Kitchen writes,

A proverb is truth in its most concentrated form, and thus expects us to add Spirit-illuminated reflection to come to full understanding. A proverb is designed to be ‘unpacked’ through much meditation, comparison with life, and with other Scriptures. … Proverbs was written not merely to tell us what to do, but also to make us think. Pure pragmatists may find themselves frustrated, if unwilling to pursue reflective, Spirit-guided meditation” (Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary, 29).

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