Proverbs 15-17
(Independence Occurs When We Commit to God)
July 4th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Whoever heeds life-giving correction
will be at home among the wise.

- Proverbs 15:31 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

This set of chapters touches on many themes, including the use of words for good or evil, the role of the LORD in our plans, and perspectives on the generations within a family.

Chapter 15 begins with an oft-quoted verse regarding an effective way to handle someone who is angry, A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger (Prov 15:1 - KJV).” Three of the next six verses include references to use of the tongue or lips, which, when properly directed can do the following:

    Command knowledge (15:2)
    Bring healing (15:11)
    Spread knowledge (15:7)

However, when there is no discipline, these same human body parts can be wasted or serve as destructive forces: “the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness (Prov 15:2b - KJV)” and "cutting words wound and maim (15:4b).”

One of the themes in chapter 16 is the comparison of man’s plans versus God’s control over these plans. Verses 1 and 9 serve as bookends to a section that features this theme. Both verses begin by pointing out the connection between man’s plans and his heart and both verses end by declaring how the LORD controls the outcome. In between these bookends are a number of elaborations of how the LORD’s plans work, including a well-known one in the third verse:

    To humans belong the plans of the heart,
    but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.

    All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
    but motives are weighed by the LORD.

    Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans.

    The LORD works out everything to its proper end —
    even the wicked for a day of disaster.

    The LORD detests all the proud of heart.
    Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

    Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
    through the fear of the LORD evil is avoided.

    When the LORD takes pleasure in anyone’s way,
    he causes their enemies to make peace with them.

    Better a little with righteousness
    than much gain with injustice.

    In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the LORD establishes their steps.

    - Proverbs 16:1-9 (NIV)

The remainder of the 16th chapter could be considered a description of tactical components of a plan, as Solomon describes specific actions and attitudes that are consistent with the LORD’s plans. For example, he writes about each of the following traits: love, faithfulness, fear of the LORD, honest scales and balances, honest lips, discerning heart, pleasant words, and a controlled temper. These attributes please God and lead to a long life, as noted in one of my favorite verses: “Gray hair is a crown of splendor, it is attained by a righteous life (Prov 16:31 - NIV).”

The chapter concludes by reiterating the truth of God’s control over events that may appear random: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord (Prov 16:33 - MSG). This is a verse that refers to the use of the Urim and Thurmin, as described in Exodus 28:30

Chapter 17 makes several references to the family structure and family life. Verse one instructs us that a peaceful home is better than a well-fed family. The second verse observes that a servant who is wise may receive the inheritance otherwise reserved for a son, in place of a disgraced child. A second type of crown for the elders is noted in verse 6: “Children’s children are a crown to the aged (17:6 - The Message),” but later verses call to mind the pain of raising children who have not followed the wise course.

Reflection and Application

Taming the tongue was still a problem several hundred years after the Proverbs. The book of James dedicates eleven verses in chapter 3 to this topic. James compares the tongue to the rudder of the boat – small but able to steer the boat to safety or into danger. James notes that “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue (James 3:7-8 - NIV).”

Surely we have made progress in the last 2,000 years since James wrote this? We have found more animals to tame and can transport ourselves faster than any animal on land, sea, and even in the heavens. We create our own weather inside our homes and buildings, but still can’t effectively control the tongue.

In World War II, there was a saying, “Loose lips sink ships,” which warned everyone of giving away secrets that might imperil our seamen. Fools did give away secrets during that time, allowing the enemy to intervene. As for our part, we continue to sink our own bodies and spirits with our own loose lips. How can we focus ourselves today to use our speaking ability to command knowledge, bring healing and spread knowledge as advised by Solomon?

It’s worthy for us to make plans, but we must recognize God’s veto power and first commit these plans to him, if we wish to succeed. Although we admit the recklessness of our tongues and steps, he ultimately controls what happens, and intercedes in the events of our world.

If we make plans to use our time to pass on wisdom to our children and their children, then it seems probable that the LORD would bless these plans and help us to achieve it. If we don’t try, then they will choose the seemingly easy course of folly, and our gray hairs will be one of grief not splendor. Let us pray to the LORD to help us guide our children down the right path and send others to reinforce the message.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions

    1. What does independence mean to you?
    2. How do we come up with gentle answers when faced with wrath?
    3. How do we recognize God’s plans?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that our plans our futile unless they involve you. Help us to commit our plans to you.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Future Teachers

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Proverbs 18-20 (Truth, Justice, and Good Judgment)

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