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Putting Wisdom to Work

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Proverbs 16; 17; 18; 19; 20; 21; 22:1–16

Wise are those who humble themselves before God, plan carefully but entrust their plans to the Lord, have a strong work ethic, and are committed to instructing their children about the Lord. The Lord honors such godly wisdom.


Putting Wisdom to Work

Proverbs 16:1–22:16


As we are working our way through the book of Proverbs, I hope you have gotten the impression by now that this divinely inspired collection of wise sayings touches just about every aspect of life—because it does! Now we can’t stop at every proverb in this book on our Wisdom Journey, but over these next few chapters, I want to point out some of the key topics Solomon addresses.

We begin in chapter 16, where we are given one of those encouraging principles for today here in verse 3: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” If we want our plans to head in the right direction, we must commit them to the Lord today.

“Commit” here literally means “roll upon.” So, roll your plans upon Him. Put your to-do list in His hands and trust Him to direct you. You might not get everything on your list done today. You might be interrupted, but those interruptions are actually the plan of God for you today. He is in charge of your calendar, and you can trust Him as the day unfolds. [1]  

Now here is a proverb that many people know: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (verse 18). Pride and a haughty spirit go hand in hand.

The Hebrew word for “haughty” is related to height. We communicate that idea by saying that a haughty person has his or her nose in the air and is looking down on everybody else. Of course, if your nose is in the air, you are not going to pay attention to your path, and you are going to end up tripping and falling flat on your face. That is the warning here.[2]

Solomon often warns against becoming angry quickly. Here in verse 32, he writes, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” In God’s eyes patience, or self-control, is more honorable than physical strength. Ruling a city is not nearly as important as ruling your spirit.[3]

Over in chapter 19 Solomon adds, “Good sense makes one slow to anger” (verse 11). So, as we say, the length of your fuse—how long it takes to make you angry—is a good measure of the depth of your godly wisdom.[4]

Now in chapter 21 we are given a wonderful reminder—especially during days of political and social division. Solomon writes in verse 1, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” In other words, kings might think they are ruling everyone, but God is actually ruling the rulers. In fact, they are in power because God wants them there. Even wicked leaders are part of God’s orchestration of history. The apostle Paul wrote that no governmental authorities exist except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God (Romans 13:1).

That should help you sleep at night. You can, and should, vote your conscience and pray for godly leaders—and by the way, I love it when a believer is appointed by God to serve in some political or judicial office. But even if your candidate loses, the one who steps into that office is there by God’s choice. Nobody gets into office, Paul wrote, apart from God’s appointment.

Ultimately every ruler, every leader, every nation will give an account to God before the King of Kings. But note, as Solomon records, even the heart of a wicked king is in the hand of God. God is moving him like He channels the currents of the rivers and oceans. It might look chaotic today, but God is ultimately in control of the chaos. He moves even wicked rulers to accomplish His ultimate purposes.[5]

Now Solomon returns to a topic that shows up often in the book of Proverbs—namely, the subject of working diligently. Proverbs 20:13 says, “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.”

I can remember as a boy of thirteen having to get up on a Saturday morning and go cut two or three lawns. I had a little lawn-mowing business that earned me enough money to help my missionary parents at the end of the summer purchase clothing and shoes for the coming school year. But let me tell you, getting out of bed on a Saturday morning to push a lawnmower in the hot sun was the last thing in the world I wanted to do! And the truth is, it hasn’t gotten any easier today to do some of the things I need to do.

Whatever you need to do today, beloved—whether it is pushing a pen in that writing project, pushing a load of laundry into the dryer, pushing through a stack of papers on your desk, or pushing cows into their stall—work hard at it. Do your best; it pleases the Lord who assigned you that labor for it demonstrates godly wisdom at work.[6]

You will notice in reading Proverbs that there are many verses relating to family life—marriage, parenting, discipline, and so on. In fact, Proverbs provides some of the most helpful instruction on the family you will find in all the Bible.

Here in chapter 19 we read, “A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain” (verse 13). The point here might seem obvious. No man wants a foolish son or a quarrelsome wife.

It is natural to desire a wise family—a wise son—but it doesn’t happen automatically. Your children are born sinners. You will never have to teach them how to lie; you will have to teach them how to tell the truth. You are never going to have to teach your children how to be selfish; you are going to have to teach them how to share.

Solomon writes here in Proverbs 22:15, “Folly,” or foolishness, “is bound up in the heart of a child.” This is the condition of every child’s heart. But there is hope for parents, for the second part of that verse says, “The rod of discipline drives it far from him.” Now the “rod,” is not justifying brutality or cruelty; rather, it refers to measured, consistent, physical punishment as a part of reinforcing right and wrong.[7]

Back in verse 6 we find a proverb that is often misunderstood: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  

Remember, proverbs present general principles—not guarantees. Godly training does not guarantee a godly life—in fact, the book of Proverbs makes it clear that godly instruction can be refused or ignored.

By the way, the Hebrew word here for child (na’ar) is used in Proverbs for a young person who has reached the age of marriage. And that gives this proverb a different perspective, doesn’t it? As a parent you encourage your grown children to walk in wisdom—the path you have pointed out to them as you raised them. And as a general rule, they are not going to forget it now that they are older.

But keep this in mind, beloved: you can make your children civil—you can make them behave in public, use a knife and fork at the table, show respect to those in authority, and a million other things—but you cannot make them spiritual. Only God’s Spirit can open their eyes to the truth of the gospel.

You can point the way, but God has to open their heart. That is why today, godly parents can have ungodly adult children, just as ungodly parents can have godly children. God alone deserves the credit when they turn out godly. Just make sure you do not take the blame if their eyes remain closed to the wisdom of God.[8]

[1] Planning: 3:5-6, 13:16, 16:9, 19:21, 21:5, 24:27

[2] Pride: 8:13: 11:2; 16:18–19; 18:12; 21:4; 22:4; 26:12; 29:23; 30:32

[3] Self-control: 14:29; 19:11; 23:1–3; 25:28

[4] Anger: 12:16; 14:17, 29; 15:1, 18; 19:11, 19; 21:14; 22:24–25; 29:8, 22; 30:33 Adapted, New Living Translation Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008)

[5] Rulers: 8:15-16, 21:1

[6] Work: 6:6–11; 10:4–6; 12:11, 24, 27; 13:4; 14:4, 23; 21:5; 22:29; 27:23–27; 28:19; 31:10–31 Adapted, New Living Translation Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008)

[7] Discipline: 1:8; 1:20–33; 3:11–12; 4:1; 9:7–8; 10:17; 12:1; 13:1,18, 24; 15:5, 12, 32; 17:12; 25:12; 27:17; 28:2

[8] Children: 1:8–9; 3:1–2; 4:1–4; 10:1; 13:22; 15:20; 17:21, 25; 19:18, 26; 20:7; 22:6, 15; 23:13–14; 29:15, 17

Parenting: 1:8–9; 4:1–4; 10:1; 15:20; 17:21, 25; 19:26; 20:20; 30:11–12, 17

Marriage:  5:18; 12:4; 18:22; 19:13–14; 31:10–11

Adapted, New Living Translation Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008)

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Rev. Bettye D. Poole says:
Thank you so Very Much, Rev Stephen. Thank you to your staff also who directed me to your website that Glorifies God! Most, l Thank God's Holy Spirit that guided me to hear your message yesterday afternoon while driving to the grocery store. Your message re government choas and the Works of God's Wisdom was/is so comforting to me. Now l can rest easier as your message helped me understand more of God's Works of Wisdom. Your staff, a lady with whom l spoke to about 1:00pm give me clear directions about how l could hear your complete message again. God guided me! Again. thank you so much for allowing God to use you. I've listened to BBN for more than 20 yrs. I listened to the broadcast of your Dear late dad on BBN. God is Wonderfully Gracious All the Time! (Rev.) Bettye, Raleigh. NC 27610 PS: Does your Seminary offer a Doctorate in Ministry? I have an M.div.

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