Day #222: Daily Bible Reading Plan - August 7th
Scripture Reading: Proverbs 16 …
Many of Solomon's proverbs include insight into the "ways" of people … people just like you and me. Modern psychology attempts to deal with the mind, heart, will, intentions and desires that we all experience throughout our lives. This portion of God's Word was written approximately 3,000 years ago, and yet it accurately portrays the deep-seated spiritual causes of virtually every personal and relational problem people face to this day. Because God KNOWS the heart and mind of every human being who has ever lived better than any counselor or psychologist apart from God's Spirit can ever know another human being, God reveals not only the diagnosis, but also the cure for the "dis-ease" called sin!
In Proverbs 16 Solomon addresses issues of the heart and of the mouth. Most certainly, the two go together. He says in verse 23: "A wise man's heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction." More damage is done in this world with words than with any other weapon. James must have had Proverbs in mind when he wrote his letter to the church a thousand years later. In James 3, he speaks about the importance of "taming the tongue," and then speaks about "selfish ambition and pride" versus "selflessness and humility." And in Chapter 4, James instructs believers to submit to God and quotes Proverbs 3:34: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). He even talks about making plans and boasting about them, saying that we should always say, "If it is the Lord's will …" (4:15).
All of these things are mentioned right here in Proverbs 16. Solomon begins by talking about the way man plans things, as if we were the "captains of our own fate." He writes, "To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue. All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD" (16:1-2). God judges the heart, the motives and the tongue, for "the LORD works out everything for HIS OWN ENDS" (16:4). No matter what you and I may plan, the results are in the Lord's hands, so "commit to the LORD whatever you do and your plans will succeed" (16:3). That doesn't mean that you make your plans and ask God to do YOUR will, but rather, that you seek HIS will and make your plans accordingly!
That's precisely why Solomon writes a lot about pride. Solomon, himself, battled pride, even though he knew that his rise to be King of Israel was from the Lord, not of his own doing. "The LORD detests all the proud of heart" … and "pride goes before destruction" (16:5,18). The wise listen to instruction as much or more than they speak. People speak their minds today on Facebook, Twitter, and through various other means of communication, without realizing that their words often reveal their hearts for all to see. Words have power, either for good or evil.
"A scoundrel plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire. A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends" (16:27-28). "Honest lips," lips that speak the truth, are their own reward. Honesty and righteousness are the fruit of hearts in tune with God's will and relationships are built and even healed by honest words spoken in humility from a heart that loves God and loves others. One of the most powerful instructions for relationships in all the Bible is found in Ephesians 4, where Paul writes in verse 29: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
Think about the words you have spoken or will speak today. Are they words that build up or tear down? What is the intention, the motive of your heart toward other people? "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (16:25). Those words can be taken to refer to many different things, but they surely apply to the way we often treat others. It "seems right" to pay back evil for evil, to attack those who attack us, to speak ill of those who speak ill of us, etc. But the end of that path is spiritual death, for such thoughts and words come not from the LORD!
Verse 6 is an interesting verse: "Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil." We know that nothing can "atone" for sin, can make up for sin, can bear the penalty for sin … nothing except the blood of Jesus. So what does Solomon mean? He is saying the same thing Peter says in I Peter 4:8: "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." Neither of those mean that we can actually make it up to God for our own sins. That would contradict the rest of Scripture. BUT, both ARE saying that when our hearts are in tune with God and our motives rise out of love for others and faithfulness to God, our speech will display the work of God's Spirit in us, for our words will reveal our hearts.
So, "a wise man's heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" (16:23-24). The intention of the wise is to instruct others, not to put them down. As he wrote to his young friend, Timothy, Paul explained, "The Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance, leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will" (II Timothy 2:24-26).
Examine the motives of your heart and the intention of your speech. Ask God to reveal to you the places where YOUR way is not working in building others up and in developing godly relationships that glorify God and bring joy to you and others. Wisdom is not necessarily gained by age. It is those who seek first God's kingdom and God's righteousness who find the wisdom to check our hearts and to season our words so that we can be salt and light, building others up rather than tearing them down to accomplish our own purposes.
Your words reveal your heart … May the Spirit of God transform your heart, tame your tongue, and equip and empower you to be an instrument of healing, speaking truth in love and humility, trusting the Lord to guide your every decision, knowing that in doing so your "plan" to glorify God will succeed. For "you are the salt of the earth. … You are the light of the world … let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:13-14, 16).
"Heavenly Father, I confess that while in my heart and my mind lies the desire to please You, yet in my heart and my mind remain the remnants of the old self that wants its own way, and so at times, my words reveal my heart. Forgive me and cleanse me, continuing to open my ears to Your instruction, that I may fulfill my calling in this world as an ambassador of YOUR kingdom, building others up with my words as I love them in Christ. I commit my way to You, knowing that all things are possible with You! In Jesus' name, Amen"