Words of the Wise Another Collection - Part II
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

In this lesson we are going to conclude our thinking about the the section of the book of Proverbs that we have termed The Words of the Wise . You will keep in mind that the wise were a group of scholars who were on an equality with the priests and the prophets. These things that are recorded here are what God gave to the wise in order that they, through the Holy Spirit of God, might pass them on down to us.

When we began the discussion of the content of this particular section, we divided them into four sections. We thought with you about the respect of persons in judgment, sectionally referred to as First Things First , and that is as far as we got. There remains in the division something else for us to discuss: Relationship to Neighbors and A Lesson From the Field of the Slothful .

In order for you to see where we have been and where we are going, I am going to suggest that you follow in your Bibles as I read the portion that deals with the second group of sayings of the wise men. Beginning with Proverbs, chapter 24, verse 23, we read:

Proverbs 24:

23 These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment.
24 He that saith unto the wicked, Thou are righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him:
25 But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.
26 Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.
27 Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.
28 Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; and deceive not with thy lips.
29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.
30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.
33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
34 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

We stop our reading there because that covers the contents of this particular section to which we have referred.

Review

A little review will be necessary. We emphasize the first section that was brought to our attention: The wise men warn against having respect of persons in judgment in verses 23-24. Notice again what is said:

Proverbs 24:

23 These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment.
24 He that saith unto the wicked, Thou are righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him:
25 But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.

We discussed this in detail, but we said what it meant is well illustrated by what is occurring in our land today because the word judgment used in the text comes from the Hebrew word mishpat, which refers to judicial sentence; and so the reference is that in the course of any land where the guilty are declared innocent and the innocent are pronounced guilty, there is a grave miscarriage of justice, which God cannot honor. The partiality that is presented, the respect that is presented, is described by the Hebrew word which speaks of partial discrimination. It is who you are that is considered instead of justice, and I do not think that we need to spend any more time refreshing your mind about that because if you were prone to forget it, all you would need to do is pick up your newspaper and recognize that practically every day we are seeing this grave miscarriage of justice.

God reminds us through the words of the wise that we must be careful not to be discriminatory in our handing out of judgment. There is one way in which we can be sure that such does not occur. We refer to it as the guarantee of right judgment. Notice verse 26 again:

Proverbs 24:

26 Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.

We discussed with you that it is presented in The King James Version , and it would simply mean allegiance . That is what is meant by kissing the lips . It is offered to every man who judges rightly. We offered to you that there is an alternate translation that is suggested in the margin of your Bible, and some of the manuscripts will bear it out because the word kiss comes from the Hebrew word nashaq , which elsewhere is translated by the word equip , so if you want to guarantee a right judgment, then this is the advice you should follow: “He that equippeth his lips with wisdom shall give a right answer.” Before anyone attempts to make any kind of judgment at all, he should equip his lips with wisdom.

In the light of the Word of God it should be emphasized that the wisdom to which reference is made is the Word of God. I trust you have learned in your study of the book of Proverbs that when wisdom is personified, it is always a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. When wisdom is abstract, it is a reference to the teaching of the Word of God.

The second thing we brought to your attention as being the content of this paragraph that we read, we described in the words First Things First , because in verse 27, we read:

Proverbs 24:

27 Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.

We pointed out to you that some of the Rabbis used this as instruction for young people who were contemplating marriage, and since the book of Proverbs is a very practical book, it would be good instruction indeed for that purpose, but we have been recognizing the wider spiritual application as well as the practical, so we remember always for the believer, first things should come first.

We suggested to you more than one rendering that would bring this to your attention. For example, one rendering of the verse: “Put first things first. Prepare your work outside and get it ready for yourself in the field. Afterward, build your house and establish a home.”

Every farmer and rancher would understand this kind of advice, but we are not all farmers and ranchers, and so it would be wise for us to consider yet another rendering that would come a bit closer home to those of us who don't have as much to do with the great outdoors perhaps as we ought to have. Other renderings suggest, “First put all in order out of doors and make everything ready on the land; then establish your house and your home.”

Another rendering: “Develop your business first, before building your house.” In practical, everyday experiences is the need of putting first things first. Not only is it true in the practical, but also in the spiritual. That is what we have already discussed in detail.

Relationship to Our Neighbors

We want to continue our discussion by calling to your attention the third thing that was mentioned in this particular portion of the Word of God as being part of the sayings of the wise. For emphasis, notice verse 28-29:

Proverbs 24:

28 Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; and deceive not with thy lips.
29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.

This represents the third thing that is presented in this particular section. For want of a better way of expressing it, we have described it as our relationship to our neighbors . What is your relationship to your neighbor? Let us suggest to you that the word neighbor should be interpreted in the broader sense of the Word of God. It doesn't mean the man who lives next door, primarily. It could include him, but it includes all with whom you have enough contact to be recognized as an individual.

There are many things said in the Word of God concerning our neighbors and how we ought to treat them. For example, you might turn to Proverbs, chapter 25, and notice a little bit of advice that we will be discussing in detail a bit later. Notice verse 17:

Proverbs 25:

17 Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.

You can spend too much time in your neighbor's house is what the wise man is saying—so much time that he will wish that you would not come back for a week or two. Many such proverbs are found within the covers of this book, but here is the suggestion that many of us never really considered that we have had anything to do with. I want you to think if perhaps you have been guilty of the very thing that the wise men are warning against. Look at verse 28 again:

Proverbs 24:

28 Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; and deceive not with thy lips.

If we don't read the Word of God carefully and only see standing out in bold letters the first phrase, “Be not a witness against thy neighbor,” we might be led to believe that we should cover up for our neighbor, and we should not ever tell anything that is going on that is wrong. Of course, we are living in a day when that sort of thing is glorified, when anybody informs on his neighbor. The suggestion is that he is some kind of rascal. He is a squealer. He is an informer. All kinds of evil are done because men are not honest in reporting what needs to be reported in the interest of the law and the security of our land.

In this particular paragraph there are two words which make all the difference in the world. Notice again:

Proverbs 24:

28 Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; and deceive not with thy lips.

There are individuals who love to be witnesses against their neighbor, not necessarily in courts of law, but just in ordinary conversation with others. They are doing it without cause, and they become guilty of the sin of spitefulness, of bitterness.

Did you ever stop to ask yourself why, when an individual is testifying against a neighbor, are they doing that? Did you ever stop to ask yourself why you are countenancing it, why you are listening to it? You know, bitterness can spring up in the heart of a person and many people can be defiled by that root of bitterness. Individuals can become bitter against their neighbors over the most trivial things and the only way they can get back at them is to be a witness against them. What they do, they do for spite. That is the reason one rendering presents the Word, “Don't testify spitefully against an innocent neighbor.” You may say something with all authority that really is not true, and you find yourself doing it for spite.

The Golden Rule Reversed

Look at the next verse, please, as we add a word to what we have already suggested. Notice verse 29:

Proverbs 24:

29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.

This mere statement might be recognized by what I have described as the Golden Rule reversed . Many people want to live by the Golden Rule, and yet fail miserably in so doing. I should not have to say to an enlightened audience like you that the Golden Rule is actually not a principle whereby Christians ought to live as far as attaining any merit is concerned; but because it is so much in the minds of people, this principle is, I think, an illustration of the Golden Rule in reverse. Of course, it might be wise for you to refresh your minds concerning the Golden Rule as it is recorded in Matthew, chapter 7, verse 12. Notice:

Matthew 7:

12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

This is a principle that it would be well for all Christians to heed: “What you would like for folk to do to you, you do to them.” You see why I say that verse 29 represents the Golden Rule in reverse. Look it again:

Proverbs 24:

29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.

The person is saying, “I am going to get even with him. I am going to do to him exactly what he did to me.” I would suggest to you that if you are in fellowship, controlled by the Holy Spirit, you watch your language. It is so easy to snap back. It is so easy to return as good as you get, and some of us are so proud of that ability, aren't we? How many times have we said, “I gave him just as good as he sent me. I gave him a piece of my mind.” I have said before that that is part of our problem. We have given away so many pieces of our mind that we don't have very much of a piece left, and that creates a problem. The wise men say, “Don't be so foolish as to do that. As a matter of fact, don't be foolish enough to say, ‘I can pay him back for all of his meanness to me'.”

Sometimes you find your neighbor (we are thinking in a very broad sense now) in dire straits, and a word from you would change the whole picture, but you don't look at it that way. You look at it as an opportunity to pay him back for what he has done. I wonder what will be revealed when the secrets of the hearts of men are revealed as to how many people have been caused to stumble by us who think we are well indoctrinated, but who are terribly careless in our relationship to our neighbors because we take advantage of the opportunity presented to get even, to spitefully speak instead of lovingly exhort.

A Lesson from the Field of the Slothful

I would like for you to notice the last paragraph in the passage for the last point in this particular group of sayings of the wise men. Read again the paragraph that begins with verse 30:

Proverbs 24:

30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.
33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
34 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

If you remember what you have studied in the book of Proverbs, you remember that this is another lesson along a line that has already been emphasized. I have referred to it, in this instance, as a lesson from the field of the slothful . I wonder if you are alert to spiritual lessons which God wants to teach you when you just go about noticing everyday things. You know, the Bible itself would be illuminated for you if you noticed everyday things about you. That is scriptural because here is an illustration: the field of the slothful. You have been warned against slothfulness before. Turn back with me to Proverbs, chapter 6, and notice, by way of contrast, another warning against the slothful—another illustration that will illuminate the truth of God's Word. Notice verse 6:

Proverbs 6:

6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
7 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
8 Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.
9 How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?
10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
11 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

Notice verses 10-11 again:

Proverbs 6:

10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
11 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

Go back to chapter 24, and notice verse 33:

Proverbs 24:

33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
34 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

You see, in emphasizing spiritual truth you never need to be afraid to repeat yourself. God does quite often, and these words are exactly the same, but the illustration is different. I suppose if we were describing this in terms with which we are familiar today, we might suggest that if you turn your alarm clock off and go back to sleep too many times, you may be eaten up with poverty, for it is easy to do. If you know you ought to be out doing but instead (this is so picturesque to me) you say, “Oh, just a little sleep,” and fold your hands across your chest and you are asleep, snoring before you even settle down very well. A little nap is good for you, but be careful that it doesn't become a habit because it will represent a slothful condition that will bring to poverty and want.

I am going to suggest to you that in this paragraph there is a double meaning. There is always, in the book of Proverbs, the physical and the spiritual to be emphasized. The word slothful describes the physical aspects of this passage of Scripture. The man who is slothful lets his vineyard grow up with thorns and nettles. He lets the wall get broken down and soon poverty comes. You make your own application, and if your pure hearts need to be stirred to greater diligence in the pursuit of worldly goods, then accept that exhortation. There are some people who are so heavenly minded, they are no earthly good. They think that because they have come to know the Lord, they have no earthly responsibilities. You do, and God will honor diligence in anything in which you are engaged.

The spiritual emphasis is brought to our attention by the phrase, “void of understanding,” because this man was not only a lazy man, this man was void of understanding. This phrase represents the New Testament truth of lacking in spiritual discernment. The individual who is void of understanding will be the individual lacking in spiritual discernment who will find his vineyard overgrown and broken down and Satan in control.

Parable of the Tares of the Field

Turn with me to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 13, and notice a parable in which the Lord Jesus Christ emphasizes this very principle. We should say, at the outset, that the parable is related to the Kingdom of Heaven, but I want the principle to apply to your life personally. Notice, beginning with verse 24:

Matthew 13:

24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

So that we will not make any misapplications and you will not misunderstand what I say, I call your attention to the interpretation of the parable found in this same chapter. Notice verse 36:

Matthew 13:

36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.

Isn't it interesting? All of the parables in this chapter and they said they wanted to know about one of them. I don't think that this would suggest that they understood the others, but for some reason this held particular interest for them. Perhaps because in the parable the men who took care of the field said, “Shall we pull up the tares that have been planted by the enemy?” The owner of the field said, “No, you haven't got sense enough to. You can't tell the difference between tares and wheat.”

Beloved, let me say something to you. That ought to shut your mouth forever about passing judgment on who is a believer and who is not. That ought to shut your mouth forever about deciding who is in fellowship and who isn't. That is not your responsibility. Tares look so much like wheat, and you can do an awful lot of damage to the wheat by trying to tear up the tares. Notice the interpretation in verse 37, where we read:

Matthew 13:

37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.

Conclusion

Beloved, in this age in which we are living, the Son of God will be sowing the wheat and the Devil will be sowing the tares. They will look so much alike, you haven't sense enough to tell the difference. Don't try to judge. Let that happen at the end of the age.

This is the lesson that I want you to get: During this age in which we live, while men slept, the enemy sowed the tares. If we in this age who are believers were not so much interested in our own comfort and in our own selfish desires, the Devil would not find as many fertile fields in which to work. Most of us want to tear up the tares after they are planted. I would suggest that we ask God to keep us spiritually awake because, as Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “The night is far spent. Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead.” I would ask that we ask the Spirit of God to keep us spiritually awake and to see to it that the Word of God is sown so that we won't need to be so concerned about the tares. These are the sayings of the wise men. We trust that the Spirit of God will minister them to your hearts.


Home Contact Us Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church Living Bible Studies
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting

www.livingbiblestudies.org