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Thursday, July 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 21

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-31

Shall we turn now in our Bibles to Proverbs 21:1-31 .

Proverbs 21:1-31 , Solomon declares:

The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will ( Proverbs 21:1 ).

The word "rivers of water" is in the Hebrew "as the water courses." Now in the land of Israel, they had made many sluices for the water by which they could direct the water from the river to their farm areas. And these sluices were, of course, to turn the water to bring it to a desired area. So Solomon is declaring that, in reality, the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord. And even as the king by the water sluices is able to direct the water to where he desires it to be, so God is able to direct the heart of the king according to God's will.

How we should desire that our hearts be in the hands of the Lord. That God would direct our hearts, and that's exactly what the scripture promises is the reality for us who walk with Jesus Christ. The Lord said, "And in those days, I will write my laws on the fleshly tablets of their hearts" ( Jeremiah 31:33 ). "No longer on the tables of stone, but on the fleshly tablets of our heart" ( 2 Corinthians 3:3 ). And as a child of God, God expresses His will and His purpose for my life by the directing of my desires. So as a child of God, we can say our hearts are in the hands of the Lord. He directs them like the sluices of water wherever He wills. That should be our case.

The second proverb is one that we can all attest to.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes ( Proverbs 21:2 ):

It's amazing how that we can actually rationalize and justify every single thing we've done. We can, you know... "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes."

but the LORD ponders the hearts ( Proverbs 21:2 ).

God looks down at my motives. God is always interested in not so much of what I do but what motivated that action. Now it is possible that a person have the totally proper actions but the wrong motivations. We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:1-21 that we are all to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, in order that we might be judged according to our works what sort they are. Now Jesus tells us that we will definitely be judged according to, not what I've done, but what motivated what I did. "Take heed to yourself that you do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of men. For I say unto you, ye have your reward" ( Matthew 6:1 ). There are many things that a person does ostensibly for the Lord, but inwardly he is motivated by his own desire for recognition. His own desire to be a leader or whatever, and the motivation of the work is wrong. God's going to test one day our hearts, our motivations.

So where every deed is right in my own eyes I can say, "Look what I did, Lord. I prophesied in Your name. I preached in Your name. I did all this." And the Lord says, "Hey, I never knew you." You see, your heart, the motivation was wrong. And so that is why earlier a proverb said, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" ( Proverbs 4:23 ). What is the attitude of my heart? What is the motivation of my heart? That's something that I need to examine; and yet, who knows? "The heart is deceitful, and desperately wicked" ( Jeremiah 17:9 ). So what can I do? God's going to one day judge me by the motivations of my heart. But my heart's deceitful and desperately wicked. What can I do? Exactly what David did in Psalms 139:1-24 and say, "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my way, and see if there be some way of wickedness in me" ( Psalms 139:23-24 ). I don't know my own heart. Therefore, I ask God, "Search my heart. God, reveal to me if there is something that is there that is unlike Thee. Let it be known, Lord, reveal."

To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice ( Proverbs 21:3 ).

Now there are people who are always ready to sacrifice. In the New Testament Jesus got after the Pharisees because they were so meticulous in paying tithes of their herb gardens where they raise little seeds. And so they would count out their coriander seeds. "Nine for me, one for the Lord. Nine for me, one for the Lord." And so meticulous in the paying of their tithes. They tithe of their anise, their mint, their cumin, their spices. But He said, "You've totally omitted the more important things: righteousness, mercy, judgment." And so God is more interested in my seeking to be righteous. My seeking to be merciful than for me coming and offering some sacrifice to God. "To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than to sacrifice."

God said, "Sacrificings and offerings I would not." I don't care about those. What I want is a broken and a contrite heart, the repentant heart. God said, "I will not turn away." But He spoke about the rejection of their sacrifices and offerings at one point. He said, "Don't bring Me any more. I'm sick of them. I don't want any more of your sacrifices. Your heart isn't in it." And the sacrifice is meaningless at that point. God says, "Don't offer, I don't want any more. What I want is a true repentance." True judgment, justice, mercy-those are the things that God is interested in.

A high look, a proud heart, and the light of the wicked, is sin ( Proverbs 21:4 ).

The wicked can't do anything right. But the proud look, the proud heart, the high look, how God hates, detests. Humble yourself. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted; he that exalteth himself shall be abased" ( Matthew 23:12 ).

The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want ( Proverbs 21:5 ).

They that are hasty to be rich, those that are looking for a get-rich-quick scheme. Here's the warning, "Hey, you're going to get burned." There's no quick way to riches. The thoughts of the diligent tend towards plenteousness, but the get-rich-schemes are going to leave you broke.

The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of those that seek death ( Proverbs 21:6 ).

These are those persons that go around with fraudulent schemes. "The getting of treasures by a lying tongue." All of the scams that they have. But how often when they get caught they get rubbed out.

The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment. The way of a man is perverse and strange: but as for the pure, his work is right ( Proverbs 21:7-8 ).

Notice the contrast in the poetry here.

It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house ( Proverbs 21:9 ).

Now I would say that probably one woman in a thousand is brawling. But inasmuch as he married a thousand, he got one of them. And so he speaks probably from experience, one of his wives. And better to dwell in the corner of the housetop. I really wouldn't know. I say that seriously. Better to dwell in the bedroom.

The soul of the wicked desireth evil: his neighbor finds no favor in his eyes ( Proverbs 21:10 ).

The soul of the wicked. The mind, the consciousness. He just desires evil.

When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge ( Proverbs 21:11 ).

Some of these really don't really call for any further kind of amplification.

The righteous man wisely considers the house of the wicked: but God overthrows the wicked for their wickedness. Whoso stops his ears at the cry of the poor, he shall cry himself, not be heard ( Proverbs 21:12-13 ).

Now, again, God taking up the cause of the poor. All the way through we see God's taking up the cause of the poor. "He who lends to the poor lends to the Lord" ( Proverbs 19:17 ). Now if you close up your ears to the cry of the poor, then God says He'll close up His ear to you.

A gift in secret pacifies anger: and a reward in the bosom, strong wrath. It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity. A man that wanders out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead. And he that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: and he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich. The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright. It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman ( Proverbs 21:14-19 ).

Again, one in a thousand, and he had his one and he had to deal with her.

There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but the foolish man spends it up. He that follows after righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness, and honor ( Proverbs 21:20-21 ).

Let's look at that again. "He that follows after righteousness and mercy," what will he find? "He'll find life, righteousness and honor."

A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof. Whoso keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps his soul from troubles ( Proverbs 21:22-23 ).

How many times I wish I hadn't said it. That word that was said in jest or carelessness, or just off, how you'd like to draw it back so many times. "Whoso keeps his mouth and his tongue will just keep himself from a lot of trouble."

Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who deals in proud wrath. The desire of a slothful man absolutely destroys him; for his hands refuse to labor ( Proverbs 21:24-25 ).

He has so much to say about the slothful man, the lazy person. And here the desire of the lazy person just eats him up. It kills him. Because you desire, but you don't have because your hands refuse to labor. So it's that desire but no fulfillment.

He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not ( Proverbs 21:26 ).

That is, the desire of the slothful kills him; his hands refuse to labor. He is coveting greedily all day long.

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination ( Proverbs 21:27 ):

Now, we dealt with this a little bit earlier in one of the earlier proverbs here in the chapter, where God is interested in justice and judgment more than sacrifice. And the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination. God doesn't really want any sacrifices from the wicked.

how much more, when he brings it with a wicked mind? ( Proverbs 21:27 )

When he is regarding iniquity in his mind and heart, and yet brings a sacrifice before the Lord.

A false witness shall perish: but the man that heareth speaketh constantly. A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way ( Proverbs 21:28-29 ).

Verse Proverbs 21:30 :

There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD ( Proverbs 21:30 ).

There's no way that you can bring to naught the works of God. There's no wisdom, no understanding, no counsel that you can take against Him.

The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD ( Proverbs 21:31 ).

Now what are you trusting in for safety? For your own personal safety? You say, "Well, I got a permit to carry a gun. Living in horrible days." No, the Lord said, "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword" ( Matthew 26:52 ). What are you trusting in for safety? "A horse is prepared against the day of battle, but the real safety is in the Lord." "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it" ( Psalms 127:1 ). Unless the Lord is keeping you, all of your endeavors to keep yourself are in vain. Better to put your trust in the Lord and your keeping into His hand than to take it in your own hands. How important that we learn to just trust in the Lord for His protection.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Proverbs 21". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/proverbs-21.html. 2014.
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