Proverbs 21-23
(Warnings of the Heart)
July 6th

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

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.

- Proverbs 21:2 (KJV)

Summary of Chapters

This set of chapters straddles a transition from the “Proverbs of Solomon” to a section called “Sayings of the Wise.” Chapter 21 touches on a number of topics, including a re-visit of the subject of plans and a few notes on proper sacrifice. The chapter opens by acknowledging that the LORD directs the heart of a king. The second verse continues that thought by adding that the LORD can truly see what’s in a man’s heart, while the man himself might think he’s right, even if his heart reveals otherwise.

A subsequent verse contrasts the plans of the diligent versus the hasty actions of others:

    Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run;
        hurry and scurry puts you further behind.

    - Proverbs 21:5 (MSG)

The chapter concludes by reminding the reader that “no plan can succeed against the LORD (Prov 21:30 - NIV).” Although the opponent may have a lot of “horse power” the “victory rests with the LORD (Prov 21:31 - NIV)” – and with those who trust in him.

There is a section break in the middle of chapter 22. A subtitle is inserted before verse 17, “Sayings of the Wise.” This section continues through the end of the chapter and into chapter 24. There are a couple of noticeable changes in the text from this point forward. The first change you may notice is that your version of the Bible might have sub-headings in front of every verse or every verse in this section that indicate Saying 1, Saying 2, etc. The second change you may notice is a style shift from the terse verses of the previous chapters to flowing paragraphs in this sayings, which offer explanations on the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of a wise life. For example,

    Don't walk on the poor just because they're poor,
        and don't use your position to crush the weak,
    Because God will come to their defense;
        the life you took, he'll take from you and give back to them.

    - Proverbs 22:22-23 (MSG)

Other Do's and Don'ts in this chapter include the following: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person (22:24 - NIV),” “Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge (Prov 22:26 - NIV),” and “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set (Prov 22:28 - KJV).” The chapter concludes by prophesying that a man who is skilled in his work “will serve before kings (Prov 22:29 - NIV).”

Chapter 23 continues with more of the Do’s and Don’ts in paragraph form. Many of these refer to a tempered life in which one does not crave delicacies, does not indulge in wine and does not gorge himself on meat. These consumptions are enticing but are deceptive and can lead to poverty. Likewise, some of the other verses warn the reader not to envy the life of the sinner or covet his neighbor’s property or fall into the trap of the prostitute or wayward wife.

The final six verses return to warnings of imbibing too much alcohol. The writer recognizes how attractive it is, but warns how it leads to disorientation, including the fake perception of not feeling pain and the desire for more the next day.

    "They hit me," you'll say, "but it didn't hurt;
    they beat on me, but I didn't feel a thing.
    When I'm sober enough to manage it,
    bring me another drink!"

    - Proverbs 23:35 (MSG)

Reflection and Application

We can easily fool ourselves into thinking that something wrong is actually right. God gave us a powerful and creative brain that can rationalize any action. But how can we channel that power and look at our hearts the way God does and then let that observation drive our decisions?

The warnings of the heart often appear as that voice in the back of our head that gets pushed aside in our desire to achieve our short term goals. We need to train ourselves to listen to that voice to ensure that we are diligently seeking plans that are consistent with the LORDs. If he is on our side, then our project will meet all of its goals.

The concept of not striking hands in a pledge appears more than once in Proverbs and is worth exploring. It does not mean to never make an agreement or never help someone, but cautions us against hastily entering a pledge that is bad for us and/or bad for the person on whose behalf we place the pledge. Once again, we need to listen to our discerning voice and maybe consult wise people.

Moving the boundary stone is the equivalent of stealing. Often times the grass looks greener on the other side of the stone, or we just want to have more of what we already have, so we are tempted to push the boundaries of what is our property and what belongs to someone else. We need to appreciate and care for what we have, be happy for our neighbor and his blessings, and respect the boundaries.

We may want to carefully interpret some of the Do’s and Don’ts. Some are clear, such as “Don’t exploit the poor.” Others may seem a bit extreme on the surface. Read carefully and note that the Proverbs do not say to never eat delicacies or never drink wine. However, we are warned not to crave and indulge in these things, because then we start heading down a crooked path.

Many wealthy people can afford luxuries, but chose not to over indulge. Warren Buffet is a favorite example. He is one of the richest men in the world, but famously drives an old car to work and carries a bag lunch from home.

In his first miracle, Jesus turned water into wine and he served wine in his Last Supper, so it seems reasonable to believe that God accepts a measured use of this beverage. If we can limit ourselves, then it can be a good thing, if we can’t, then its best avoided.

The quote in verse 22:29 can be applied in a lot of ways (Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank - NIV). In the book of Genesis, it was Joseph’s skills, which he attributed to God that allowed him to climb the ladder from prison to king’s servant and the king’s right hand man (Genesis chapters 39-42). We may see this pattern again in a subsequent book. If we study ourselves, recognize our skills, put them to use, and give credit to God, then we may find ourselves excelling in our chosen field.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What are some of your strongest skills?
    2. What recent experiences have you had where you took a path different than the one advised by a rational voice in your head?
    3. How do we discern how much of a good thing is sufficient?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you see our hearts. Help us to be honest with ourselves and act according to your word.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Proverbs 24-26 (Like a Cloud without Rain)

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