Proverbs 16: Words & the Heart

Read the Bible in 2011Week 32: Thursday

Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly
Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Proverbs 16:18–19

Thursday’s Bible reading is Proverbs 16. This chapter is in the third section of Proverbs: “The first book of Solomon.”1 It’s rich in content as the heart and life of the righteous is compared with that of the wicked.

Pride is mentioned as in the verses I quoted above. “Pride goes before a fall,” is a proverb that is commonly known in our society even by those unfamiliar with the Bible. Here’s another proverb on pride:

“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD;
Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.”
Proverbs 16:5

There’s a great deal about speech in this chapter. As you read, remember Gleason Archer’s comments on the contrasts in Proverbs that I quoted in Proverbs 2–3: Wisdom & Life:

“The term for “proverb” is māšāl, which comes from the root idea meaning “parallel” or “similar” and hence signifies a “description by way of comparison.”…

“It should be noted that the characteristic type of māshāl or proverb in this book is the balanced antithesis which incisively contrasts the wise man and the fool, the good man and the wicked, true value and false, in such a way as to set forth the two sides of the truth in clearest opposition to each other and thus perform an incisive didactic function. The constant preoccupation of the book is with the elemental antagonisms of obedience versus rebellion, industry versus laziness, prudence versus presumption, and so on. These are so presented as to put before the reader a clear-cut choice, leaving him no ground for wretched compromise or vacillating indecision.”2

Honey and healing are descriptive of the speech of a person with a wise heart:

“The heart of the wise instructs his mouth
And adds persuasiveness to his lips.
Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Proverbs 16:23–24

A few verses later, here’s a stark contrast:

“A worthless man digs up evil,
While his words are like scorching fire.
A perverse man spreads strife,
And a slanderer separates intimate friends.”
Proverbs 16:27–28

There’s one other proverb I want to mention from this chapter, because it’s the antithesis to our culture—not just in society at large, but within the church as well:

“A gray head is a crown of glory;
It is found in the way of righteousness.”
Proverbs 16:31

Many times it seems there is a dearth of both those who are young who seek wisdom from older Christians as well as older Christians who are wise. As I wrote two weeks ago in Proverbs 13: Listen & Be Wise, while some only become more rigid with age or frozen in immaturity, the Bible teaches that those who are truly godly will grow in wisdom. You can benefit greatly from those who learned wisdom in their earlier years. Their experience of years of knowing the Lord, of knowing other people and going through the ups and downs of life can be of great value to you.

In Wisdom’s Walk & Talk, I wrote about what James has to say about the measure of true wisdom. God can help you discern those older wise people point you to God and not to themselves. They can share the hard lessons they learned—their sins and God’s forgiveness and help. They can share their insights into people and relationships and difficult situations. They can offer encouragement and help you discern wise choices.

At the Grace to You blog in late July John MacArthur began a series of posts that are his words of wisdom to those men in the group that’s been called the “Young, Restless, and Reformed.” He’s a wise, godly man with decades of experience in the preaching of God’s Word and the pastoring of a church. Much of what he says is applicable to women as well. I especially liked The Marks of Immaturity, and How To Keep Growing. Some of the response Dr. MacArthur has received prompted Travis Allen, the Director of Internet Ministry, to write: Growing Up: How to Listen Like a Man, in which he says:

“If we return to Scripture, the biblical pattern—which is the assumption throughout most of human history—is that it’s incumbent on the young to understand the old. Young people should make every effort to understand the aged, not the other way around. That’s the message of the Proverbs…

“Older people, by virtue of God’s predetermined birth order, have the right of priority over us younger people. If you don’t think that’s fair, you’ll have to take that up with God; He’s the one who chose to put them on the planet ahead of us.”3

Not only do your words reveal your heart, but as Proverbs makes clear many times, your attitude towards receiving words from those who are wise does as well.

UPDATE: I’ve added the first footnote reference that I had inadvertently omitted, and I’ve also changed the section order from the second to the third. My apologies for the inaccuracies.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1A. F. Walls, “Proverbs,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., p. 550.
2Gleason L. Archer, Jr., “The Books of Wisdom: Job and Proverbs,” A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, pp. 465, 468.
3Travis Allen, Grace to You: Growing Up: How to Listen Like a Man.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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