Observe These chapters range from behaviour of sons to a king’s mind and heart, from making plans to living uprightly, in no particular arrangement. Let’s look at speech, one among many topics but always relevant.
Our plans vs God’s ways: Addressed in 16:1-4, God has graciously given us minds to choose, to consider, to think through. We can’t rely on these, though. Planning in God’s will puts Him first. We pray for wisdom and He assures us that as we do so, He knows the details. While these verses do not directly address speech, we often talk out our plans!
Pleasant vs abusive speech: 16:21-24; 27-30 contrast the effects of words: loving words, springing from a pure heart, bless the hearer and the speaker; harsh words only bring trouble and heartache. 17:14 addresses the problem of angry words that increase strife; best to leave off before both of these increase, bringing only destruction.
Gossip and strife: In 18:5-8, misuse of words has its own consequences. In the courts, v 8 implies a malfunctioning legal system full of innuendo, gossip, lying. Death-dealing gossip is a spreading virus.
Oddly, 18:18 says The lot puts an end to strife and separates those locked in dispute. (Recall Acts 1:26 when the apostles chose Judas’ replacement by lot.) Ultimately, God makes the choice; strife ends in a final decision.
Fools: always examples of what not to do or say. 18:2, 6-8 tell us they only want to listen to themselves, have no sense of right speaking, delight in gossip that damages another. The ‘fruit of the lips’ praise God or destroy a reputation. Fools are oblivious to this.
False witness: Bookends, 19:5,9 are direct repetitions, implying the need for honesty; lies will come into the open; unfit words may exploit the poor, though the poor are not immune to uttering falsehoods.
Scoffing/mocking: 19:25-20:1 and 21:16 recall Psalm 1:1c. Condemnation is appropriate for scoffers, a good beating for fools -- then will they understand?
Counsel: 20:18-19 show that major decisions need counsel but take care in choosing counselors. Can they keep shared confidences? Slander and babblers are close relatives.
Justice: When practiced by those who love good, justice is sheer joy. (21:15). The pursuit of righteousness and kindness return these lovely virtues to those who seek good, who seek God.
No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel/can avail against the Lord. (21:30) The sovereign will of the Lord prevails in all our planning. His goodness, kindness always win out over wealth and power, certainly over evil and its adherents. This is especially true in speech.
Interpret In Proverbs, we encounter a different mindset; our linear minds find these couplets hard to grasp. Verses repeat, maybe word for word, in different chapters; parallels and contrasts abound; an idea repeats in different ways; a topic lasts five verses then abruptly switches gears. Repetition indicates the significance of the teaching. Proverbs stretches our brains as we accommodate this circular way of thought!
Apply Our Bible in a Year introduces us to Hebrew thought; Proverbs are meant to give life and we see God’s wisdom in them, requiring careful rereading. Maybe in the next year or two we could revisit small blocks of Wisdom literature, looking more deeply into how it still applies. It’s all part of the Word!
Ask Out of the heart, the mouth speaks (Mt 12:34). Did Jesus have Proverbs in mind when he urged me to keep a clean heart, so my words honour and glorify Him, bringing His life and love to others?
Pray: Lord, let what travels from ear to heart to mouth reflect Your kindness, goodness, righteousness, and light. Thank You for these little gems of Your practical wisdom.
Song Psalm 3: Not Afraid Jason Silver
Psalm 3: You are My Shield My Soul among Lions
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