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Proverbs 21

<Link to Proverbs 21>

Today’s selections:

A person may think their own ways are right,
    but the Lord weighs the heart.”
(Proverbs 21:2 NIV)

Solomon repeats a similar thought from Proverbs 16:2, reminding us that we are easily swayed into justifying our thoughts and actions.  And the sad thing is, we justify our own actions, but criticize the same thing in others.

Solomon likely remembered his father’s (King David’s) words, humbly inviting God in to examine his actions, his thoughts, even his motives:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.”
(Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)

We would do well to follow David’s and Solomon’s example, and pass this down to our children and our children’s children.

Whoever loves pleasure will become poor;
    whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.”
(Proverbs 21:17 NIV)

Solomon is not condemning our enjoyment of life here..  He is referring to those whose entire life is focused on an excessive and luxurious lifestyle.  Solomon uses wine (for drinking) and olive oil (for anointing), both referring to big, formal dinner celebration activities, obviously costing a lot of money.

Solomon is not telling us we have to be on a strict bread-and-water diet.  Quite the contrary.  Instead, he is telling us not to make our only purpose in life to pursue pleasure and constantly seek to live beyond our means.

Solomon uses examples of wine and olive oil here, but the same can be true of anything else that can become all-consuming:  vehicles, clothes, recreational toys, houses, furnishings, things we collect, pets, etc.

Whoever pursues righteousness and love
    finds life, prosperity and honor.”
(Proverbs 21:21 NIV)

Solomon reminds us that living for the Lord is intentional – we must pursue this way of life.  It does not come automatically.  Solomon tells us to pursue two things:  Righteousness and Love.

Righteousness refers to our way of life, doing what God asks of us, honoring the Lord with our motives, thoughts, and actions.  Love refers to the way we live our lives in community, showing grace and mercy and being a blessing to others, just as the Lord has shown kindness to us and blessed us.

When we follow the Lord’s commands to live in communion with Him, and in community with one another, we feel His favor, and find meaning and satisfaction in life.

There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan
    that can succeed against the Lord.”
(Proverbs 21:30 NIV)

Solomon reminds us that God’s ways will ultimately prevail, that God’s ways are higher that our ways, His thoughts higher than our thoughts.  Anything in defiance of God’s ways will eventually fail.

Isaiah chapter 40 reminds us of God’s holiness and wisdom and power.  Here’s an excerpt

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
    or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
    or weighed the mountains on the scales
    and the hills in a balance?
Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord,
    or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
    and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
    or showed him the path of understanding?”
(Isaiah 40:12-14 NIV)

As Solomon infers, who are we to think we know more than God?


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