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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Proverbs 8

Verses 1-36

Supreme Acquisitions

Proverbs 8:35-36

This striking contrast expresses the twofold universal classification of men those who find and those who miss true wisdom in life.

I. Looking first at the darker side of the contrast we see sin revealed as being both a missing of the Divine purpose and also a process of self-destruction. For to miss Christ either by reason of engaging the heart's attention with other things, by the fatal power of careless inattention, or by engrossment in the search after the merely secondary things of life, is to fail in apprehending that for which creation and redemption alike have marked us out. And his folly is eternal who misses Christ for the sake of gaining any or aught other.

For at the same time he wrongeth his own soul'. Sin is but long-drawn-out self-destruction. It confuses those powers of spiritual apprehension by which we are enabled to determine the will of God and so to steer a straight course. It outrages conscience, violating that organ of moral sensitiveness until its approving or reproving voice is entirely hushed. Sin paralyses will-power, exercising a kind of moral hypnotism from which men often try to arouse themselves in vain.

It is, however, by robbing the soul of its only possibility of development that sin, which is in some shape or other a missing of Christ, wrongs it most. Just as everything in Nature needs its own proper element and environment in order to ensure the development of all its possibilities, so the soul of man needs Christ in order to reach its highest and truest life.

II. The brighter side of the contrast is bright indeed. 'He that findeth Me findeth life,' which is the very antithesis of sin's result. For life is power to be and to do. Its manifestations are as visible and recognizable as are those of the sin to which allusion has been made. For with life comes the gift of vision power to see and to understand the will of God as the law of daily living. It brings, too, a quickening of conscience power to judge in matters of personal moral import. It imparts a strength of will power to purpose according to the knowledge received and judgment recorded. Above all, life is the true environment for development power to grow. In short Christ transforms the water of mere existence into the wine of true life.

III. It remains to be noted that this His wondrous gift is only made to him that 'findeth Me,' which is of course to him that seeketh. The man who wants to see Christ is always the man whom Christ wants to see, and he who sets his heart to know the life which He bestows is never disappointed of his desire.

J. Stuart Holden, Redeeming Vision, p. 114.

God's Deepest Horror in Sin

Proverbs 8:36

I. This is not the common mode of thinking about sin. The common mode is to regard God's horror of sin as resulting from a sense of injury to Himself. Here, on the contrary, the Divine horror of sin is said to consist in the fact that it is an injury to me . A father says to a child, 'Do not go near the fire while I am out; if you do, I shall be very angry'. The child probably thinks that his anger will lie in the fact of being disobeyed. It will not lie there at all; it will be stirred purely by the fear that in its act of disobedience the child may have hurt itself. And if he finds that the child has hurt itself, his anger will be transmuted into the most intense pain.

II. Now, take what we call hell-fire. The heavenly Father cries to His children 'I command you not to go near it lest you get scorched'. What is the ground of that command? Is it the wish to exercise a Divine authority? No; startling as it may seem, it is the wish to avert a Divine fear. You have heard the expression, 'The fear of the Lord'. When I am exhorted to cultivate the fear of the Lord, what does that mean? It means that I am to get into my heart that fear which dwells in the heart of God, that I am to have for my brother the same dread which the heavenly Father has for His children. The fear of the Lord is the fear that His sons and daughters will touch the fire.

III. You speak of God's sovereign decrees. God has no sovereign decrees; God's decrees are all paternal. The decrees of a despot are meant to clip the subject's wings; those of the Father are meant to expand the wings. Why are you forbidden to hate? Because hatred cramps the soul. Why are you forbidden to be jealous? Because jealousy narrows the soul. Why are you forbidden to be selfish? Because selfishness locks the soul. Why are you commanded to love? Because love is liberty. Why are you commanded to pity? Because pity is power. Why are you commanded to sympathize? Because sympathy is the heart's soaring. The commands of your Father break the cage and set you free. He prescribes faith that you may fly. He offers grace that you may grow. He enjoins kindness that you may kindle. He exacts brotherhood that you may bloom. He requires service that you may sing. He invites prayer that you may prophesy. Not in His honour, but in yours, does He ask the homage of your heart; the Father has no glory but the enlargement of His child.

G. Matheson, Messages of Hope, p. 81.

References. .VIII. 36. W. L. Watkinson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. 1902, p. 401. Rocliffe Mackintosh, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. 1906, p. 379. IX. 1-6. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 151. IX. 3, 4, and 16. A. Maclaren, Sermons Preached in Manchester, p. 326. IX. 7, 9, 12. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 154. IX. 10. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iv. p. 239. C. S. Macfarland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 235. IX. 13-18. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 159. IX. 17. J. Leith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. 1900, p. 45. X. 1. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 164. X. 4. Ibid. p. 167. X. 7. Ibid. p. 168. Canon Bodington, Church Times, vol. xli. 1899, p. 639. Hensley Henson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. 1901, p. 73; see also vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 313. Hugh Black, University Sermons, p. 281. X. 8, 9. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 170. X. 11, 14. Ibid. p. 172. X. 15. J. Percival, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiv. 1908, p. 401. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 175. X. 18-21. Ibid. p. 180. H. Jeffs, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiii. 1908, p. 152.

The Absolute Good

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Proverbs 8". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.