I Got Nothing! Proverb for the Day 30:2

“I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man’s understanding.”

These words are part of a longer poetic section (:2-9) spoken by Agur (:1) about himself. Mentioned nowhere else in Scripture or ancient history, I’ll suggest he was not someone important — probably just a regular person like us.

Our verse seems to indicate that’s exactly how he saw himself, too. Noting he was not particularly smart or insightful, Agur says “I am the most ignorant of men, I do not have a man’s understanding.”

So, while not anyone special – neither rich, famous, important nor powerful – God still chose to use him to write a chapter in the Bible. Admittedly, there were other Bible writers who also felt unqualified for their callings — like Amos (7:14), Jeremiah (1:6), Isaiah (6:5), Solomon (1 Kings 3:7) and even Moses (Ex 3:11; 6:12).

But Agur seems to stand out as a truly unknown person. The truth is, God specializes in using people that others wouldn’t consider using…and then doing the most amazing things through them!

I find that to be pretty comforting. He used Agur — He just might use me, too!

I Need Justice! Proverb for the Day 29:26

Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the LORD that one gets justice.
This is one of those wise sayings that describes how we tend to act…and the way it really is!

Because “a ruler” is in-charge, “many seek an audience” with him or her. And there’s really nothing wrong with that!

But the message here is that anyone who has a need, and tries enlisting the “ruler’s” support, should really understand…in the end, “it is from the LORD that one gets justice.”

In truth, God might lead us to “seek an audience with a ruler” and He might use that person to help us. But everything that God sees, knows and can do about what’s happening in our lives is so much more than any person who’s in-charge of anything!

While we don’t know any specifics about the petitioner’s request in this verse, “it is from the LORD that one gets justice.”

“Justice” in the Biblical world was an all-encompassing legal, spiritual and practical concept. Certainly not “getting even” with someone, and way more than just a legal ruling in our favor, “justice” actually represented the whole realm of governance in antiquity — creating good laws, enforcing the laws and making judicial decisions based on those laws.

I’d paraphrase the concept this way: “it is from the LORD that one gets all things governed well in their lives!” Now, that’s justice!

So, in the end, it would appear that the message of our verse is focus. I can either focus on people (places or things) — that I see are either the cause or answer to my problems…or I can focus on Him who will “govern well all in my life.”

Do WHAT For A Piece of Bread? Proverb for the Day 28:21

To show partiality is not good — yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread

This wise saying is not about a specific character in Proverbs, just a reminder…about any and all of us! 
“To show partiality” is to see someone and then make a judgment about them. I sort of size them up and then decide how I’m going to treat or respond to them. 
While this phrase might seem to be focused more on showing respect to certain people, it actually applies to disrespecting others, as well.
So, our proverb is simply a reminder that such thinking and behavior “is not good.” And the second phrase in the verse reminds us why…”yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread.”

The fact is, any of us are capable of making terrible decisions. None of us are worthy of any special respect…but we all are worthy of some respect!

This wise saying discusses how we should think about others. But, it should also caution me about how I think about myself — I still have it in me to do the dumbest stuff!
There’s a modern proverb I think nicely compliments this ancient one:

Be kind to everyone on the way up; you’ll meet the same people on the way down

A Masterpiece Established In Righteousness…It Could Be Me! Proverb for the Day 25:4-5

4 Remove the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the silversmith; 5 remove the wicked from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness. 

These two verses begin a theme in this chapter about being in the king’s presence. The comparison here is with the impurities found in association with silver ore.

“Remove the dross from the silver” refers to the refining process of silver ore after it has been removed from the ground. It is done in a furnace where the silver is heated to a liquid state, which allows impurities (“the dross”) to be separated.

“And out comes material for the silversmith” will be the valuable metal that is left after the dross has been removed. “The silversmith” can then fashioned it into an artistic masterpiece of even greater value than the silver, itself.

Verse 5 compares “the wicked” to “the dross” and “the king’s presence” to “the silver.” “Remove the wicked from the king’s presence” should make the king’s rule better. Without “the wicked” around to influence things negatively, “his throne will be established through righteousness.”

We can make the same application in our lives. Hanging around with inappropriate people in inappropriate places doing inappropriate things will not establish us in righteousness.

And those “wicked” people will probably not just go away. We will probably have to make these decisions ourselves. But when we do — something really special can be brought to fruition in our lives!

A Kiss On The Lips… Proverb for the Day 24:26

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips

While kisses may not always be appreciated — like Judas’ betrayal kiss of Jesus — “a kiss on the lips” is rather special. Under normal circumstances, we won’t accept “a kiss on the lips” if we don’t want it!

Of course, what makes such a kiss so meaningful is based on who’s actually doing the kissing! So we’ll consider the “kiss on the lips” in this wise saying to be a very good thing!

In our verse, this kiss is likened to “an honest answer” — a response that is “upright” or “straight.” While honest answers are appreciated in general, they are especially meaningful from those who matter to us — like the ones from whom we would willingly receive a kiss!

For me the message of this wise saying is pretty straightforward. While everyone won’t appreciate a kiss on the lips from me today, they probably would appreciate an honest answer!

I’ll work on that!

Prudence & Pearls, Pigs & Fools — Proverb for the Day 23:9

Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words

This wise saying starts off with a directive that is pretty straightforward and clear – “do not speak to fools.” The second line provides the rationale for it — “they will scorn your prudent words.”

The setting for this proverb would seem to be a situation where we’re trying to have a sensible discussion (“prudent words”) with people who have little capacity for it — at least at that moment (“fools).

The Hebrew term translated “fools” here doesn’t suggest mental deficiency. Instead, it’s those who are morally deficient. Their thinking and world-view has virtually no appreciation for our “prudent (understanding and insightful) words.”

It’s like a sincere conversation I tried having with a guy who was drunk last week. We were speaking to each other about the same topic — which he initiated! — but we were talking on two completely different levels.

The result of such an exchange with “fools” will be their lack of appreciation (“scorn”) for our “prudent words.” This verse suggest our conversation will be a wasted effort.

Jesus actually discussed a similar situation when he said, “do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Mt 7:6).

Pretty pearls laying in the slop around a pig may get eaten or just get trampled down into the mire — never to be seen again. But, maybe even worse, the pig might turn around and go after me, too!

Hands in Pockets, Mouth Shut & Keep it Moving! Proverb for the Day 22:26-27

26 Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; 27 if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.
This is another proverbial warning about debt (see 6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18). While most references are to co-signing for others (friend or stranger), this one’s about covering “for debts” which could be other’s or my own.  
Verse 26 says it twice. We’re not supposed to be “one who shakes hands in pledge” (a binding, but non-verbal, commitment) or “puts up security” (probably in the context of a verbal exchange).
Either way, we’re strongly advised not to do it! 
The reason is simple (:27). “If you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.” While “bed” for the average ancient Israelite wasn’t the piece of furniture we know, it did represent the situation (pad, wrappings, covers) where we know we can go to be safe, find rest and sleep soundly.

Admittedly, this wise saying doesn’t say it’s a sin — just that it’s not a very smart thing to do to myself.

And it doesn’t sound as bad as having a loan shark’s guys come and break my kneecaps! But this situation would have been a real everyday hardship for a typical Israelite…and it could have been avoided.

But I can also apply this advice to any aspect of my life. Based on what I know to be true, why should I continue in this situation?

Maybe a modern version of this ancient wise saying would be “Keep your hands in your pockets, Keep your mouth shut and just keep it moving!”

Horse, Battle, Victory…Not! Proverb for the Day 21:31

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD

After noting there’s no wisdom, insight or plan that can succeed AGAINST the LORD (:30), this proverb’s pretty clear that there’s only one way to victory — “WITH the LORD.”

“The horse made ready for the day of battle” is featured here. It’s the first of only two “horse” references in Proverbs (see also 26:3).

In Solomon’s day, horses were used primarily for warfare — pulling war chariots, in particular. In fact, it was only during the time of David and Solomon that we see much evidence of men actually riding horseback in the ancient Near East.

Interestingly, David didn’t seem to appreciate horses and chariots (he hamstrung captured enemy chariot horses; see 2 Samuel 8:4; 1 Chronicles 18:4). But Solomon did and utilized both (1 Kings 10:26; 2 Chronicles 1:14).

That makes this proverb meaningful. Attributed to Solomon, who appreciated the value of horses (and chariots), he indicates they’re still not the answer.

All the horses “made ready for the day of battle” will never be enough. With all the military resources Solomon had at his disposal, he knew “victory rests with the LORD.”

With whatever we’re going to be battling today, may we be just as certain!

Up or Down…I Choose! Proverb for the Day 18:12

Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor

This wise saying doesn’t discuss particular characters, but a couple of very real life situations. Both phrases describe being lifted up and being brought low — going in the exact opposite directions!

“Before a downfall the heart is haughty” indicates a starting point with someone sitting up high (“haughty”) — at least in their own “heart” and mind. But thinking “I’m all that!” is not a very safe place to be.

This high perch is the place from which he or she will have a “downfall.”

In contrast, “humility comes before honor.” The starting point here is down low. But it is, in fact, just a stepping stone up to “honor.”

I’d like to suggest that both starting points are self-imposed. I choose that “haughty heart”…or I can choose to “humble” myself. Either way, it’s my call!

Where I end up will also be determined — to the largest degree — by my own choices. My “downfall” or “honor” is going to be more about my thinking than anything else.

Admittedly, there is nothing in this verse about wealth or power. And God isn’t even mentioned.

What happens in this wise saying really has only my fingerprints all over it! It’s going to be about me and my attitudes. I either set myself up to fail (“downfall”) or succeed (“honor”).

There’s a modern proverb I think makes an appropriate corollary. While made famous by gossip columnist Walter Winchell, it apparently originating with Hollywood playwright Wilson Miznor in the early 1930s.

Miznor once told a young up-and-coming motion picture star…”be kind to everyone on the way up, you’ll meet the same people on the way down!”

I Got Nothin’…Proverb for the Day 17:16

Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it?

This proverb is about one of the most frequently mentioned characters in Proverbs — “fools.” Actually a rhetorical question, it’s making a point rather than eliciting an answer.

There are three different Hebrew words translated “fools” in Proverbs. This is the “fool” who just can’t stop him or herself from making bad decisions.

It isn’t that this person is mentally, or even morally, deficient — they’re just very immature and don’t make good choices. And it has nothing to do with their age!

The picture is of an immature person with plenty of resources who is unable to attain wisdom. The only way this fool is going to be “able to understand it” and get into this wisdom-thing is to finally give up on his or her own best thinking.

Yet, the truth is no one, regardless of age or resources, can earn or produce wisdom in their own life. We’ll all need to be “able to understand” how it works.

Defined as “seeing life from God’s point of view” (https://helpingupmission.org/character-qualities), “wisdom” changes how we see things, think about them, feel about them and, ultimately act on them.

It’s a paradox…but understanding I got nothin’ ultimately sets me up to have anything!