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Words and Work

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Proverbs 10–15

What we pursue in life reveals who we are. If we seek wise friends, good counsel, and a righteous lifestyle, we testify to our relationship to the Lord and set an example for others who desire to honor Him.


Words and Work

Proverbs 10–15


What we have studied so far in the first nine chapters of Proverbs is in many ways an introduction. We have been given the great importance of wisdom; we have been invited to pursue wisdom, to dig for wisdom, and to embrace the wisdom of God. We have also been given some warnings about rejecting the wisdom of God.

Now we come to chapter 10, where verse 1 repeats the book’s title: “The proverbs of Solomon.” This begins a long section of the book that gives us a series of individual, isolated proverbs. Each verse, or proverb, stands alone, without any extended discussion.

What that means is that from here on, most of this book is going to be impossible to outline. If you are a Bible teacher or pastor or missionary and you have tried to teach through this book, you know how true that is.

Solomon touches on a number of topics rapidly and even repeatedly. According to 1 Kings 4:32, Solomon “spoke 3,000 proverbs.” So, in the book of Proverbs, we have only a small collection of them; however, these are the proverbs the Spirit of God wanted preserved in His inspired record of Scripture for your benefit and mine.

Now let me say just a couple of things about Hebrew proverbs. They are written in poetic style, and what you will notice most often is something called parallelism. That is, the second line of the proverb parallels the first line. The second line often repeats the thought of the first line using different words; sometimes the second line creates a contrast to the first line. For instance, Proverbs 10:1 says, “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.” Here we see a contrast.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a proverb is not a guarantee; it is a general rule or principle. It generally comes true, but not always. For example, consider verse 9: “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” There are a lot of honest people in the world who have been mistreated, and there are a lot of crooked people in the world who never get caught. But this principle generally holds true in life. That is why honest people live with the security of knowing they are doing the right thing, and crooked people are always looking over their shoulder to see if they have been found out.

As we go through many of these proverbs, keep in mind that they offer general principles to follow.

Down in verse 12, we have this familiar proverb: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” The first part here is rather obvious: hatred creates conflict. But love, Solomon says, “covers all offenses.” A loving person is willing to forgive others. Some people put every little offense into a pot they keep on the stove burner of their heart; and every day they go by there and stir that pot. They want to remember what somebody said or did that hurt their feelings.

The book of Proverbs creates questions for us in terms of application, and the question to ask ourselves with this proverb is this: Are we going to empty out that pot, or do we want to keep stirring it up? PQ

In verse 27 we have another proverb on a topic Solomon has touched on already: “The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.” Now again, this is a general principle. If you live a holy life, your life will generally be healthier and longer because you are not going to abuse your body. But there are exceptions. I know godly people who have died young and some sinful people who just never seem to get old.

Let me illustrate this general principle this way: If I drive according to the speed limit and stop at red lights and do not race around corners, I am probably going to live longer than somebody who thinks he has entered a racing event every time he gets behind the wheel. I was on the interstate the other day, and a guy passed me doing well over 100 miles an hour, weaving around cars recklessly. Now I might be the one who gets into an accident at some point, and he might never get into an accident; but in general, he is much more at risk of dying on the highway than I am. And that is the idea here: the person who walks with God is living a healthier life that is more likely to lead to a longer life than somebody who is living a reckless and sinful lifestyle.

Now in chapter 11 is a proverb that offers a good reminder when you need some direction in life. It reads, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (verse 14). In other words, don’t make important decisions without consulting others. God has given us fellow believers, spiritual leaders, and mentors who can offer different perspectives, different experiences, and biblical insights that can guard us from making the wrong decision.[1]

In the first verse of chapter 12, we read, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” Even though discipline, or correction, is humbling and maybe even embarrassing, a wise person accepts correction and instruction.[2]

Proverbs 13:20 presents a principle that appears often in this collection of proverbs: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Let me ask you something: Who are your best friends? Who are the people you hang out with? To whom have you given permission to influence your life? Are they wise? Well then, their wisdom is going to rub off on you. So, choose your close friends carefully.[3]

Now in chapter 14, we are told why good counsel and discipline are needed: “There is a way that seems right to a man,but its end is the way to death” (verse 12). I can’t think of a better description of our world than this one. People believe that whatever opinion the majority holds is right. Whatever our country legalizes must be right. Whatever our culture approves must be right. Let me tell you, what is politically and socially correct is often biblically corrupt.

Finally, Proverbs 15:29 gives us both a word of assurance and a warning: “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” I hear a lot of people in our world today talking about praying—they are praying about this or that. But that does not mean God is listening. Praying to God is dependent on a partnership with God; you cannot pray, “Our Father in heaven” unless He is your heavenly Father. And He cannot be your heavenly Father unless His Son is your Savior. That is how you get into the family of God—through Jesus Christ alone. And when you come to Christ, you begin a partnership—a relationship—with your heavenly Father.

Now I want to highlight just one theme that runs through chapters 10 through 15, and that is the topic of speech, or words. There are few, if any, topics given more attention in the book of Proverbs than our speech. Proverbs has a lot to say about our words.

Proverbs 15:1, might be something you will need to remember today: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Tense situations can be diffused by gracious words.

Words can start a war, and the right words can end a war. So, let’s use words with great wisdom.[4]

[1] Counselors: 12:15, 13:10, 15:22, 20:18, 24:6, 27:17, 27:9

[2] Correction: 1:8; 1:20–33; 3:11–12; 4:1; 9:7–8; 10:17; 12:1; 13:1, 18; 15:5, 12, 32; 17:12; 25:12; 27:17; 28:23

[3] Friendship: 3:32; 11:30; 12:26; 14:20; 16:28; 17:9, 17; 18:19, 24; 19:4, 6–7; 20:6; 22:11, 24; 24:26; 27:6, 9–10

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

[4] Speaking: 10:11; 15:4, 23; 16:23–24; 18:4, 21; 26:23. Self-Control: 14:29; 16:32; 19:11; 23:1–3; 25:28

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

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