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A Gentle Answer and the Tongue of the Wise
Solomon, the king of peace, tells us in Proverbs 15:1 how a person who is inflamed with anger can be calmed down. This can be applied to all situations wherein someone is angry because of (alleged) injustice that has been done to him. It can happen in a family, in a friendship relationship, in the living and work environment and in the church. How important is it then to respond with “a gentle answer” to the explosion of anger. Someone who has been provoked in his feelings can be calmed down with a gentle or thoughtfully spoken answer, through which the tension can disappear and peace returns.
The opposite of a gentle answer is “a harsh word”. That does not calm a person down, but on the contrary stirs up anger. The spark ignites. A harsh word is not only an offensive word, but also a sharp and hurtful word, which causes pain and grief. Such a word causes a violent and angry response. When a carnal expression is answered with a carnal expression, it means war.
Of both ways of reactions we have a clear example in the Scripture. The way in which Gideon answers the offended men of Ephraim, is an example of a gentle answer (Judges 8:1-Leviticus :). By what he says, the differences are resolved. The harshness with which Jephthah answers the same men of Ephraim who were offended again, causes a civil war with many victims (Judges 12:1-Joshua :; 1 Kings 12:13-Nehemiah :).
How wise men are can often be determined by what they say (Proverbs 15:2). The wise know when, where and how they should speak. The good use that the wise make of knowledge with their tongue, gives knowledge a good name, makes knowledge attractive to others and worthy of pursuing it. In that way knowledge is no theory, but practice and it is a blessing to those who listen to it.
Knowledge comes from the wise and folly from the fools. The so-called knowledge of the fools is folly. What comes out of the mouth of fools is nothing but folly. Their mouth overflows with it. The many words that bubble out of their mouths like water show how foolish they are of heart.
The LORD Sees Everything and Everybody
God knows and sees through everyone completely. He is omniscient and omnipresent and has a perfect knowledge of His entire creation, of people and of things. There is nothing hidden from Him. He observes all things and all men, like a guard does who guards a city. Nothing and nobody escapes His sight (Jeremiah 23:24; Psalms 11:4; Psalms 33:13-2 Chronicles :; Hebrews 4:13). That is necessary for Him to be Judge of every individual (cf. Jeremiah 32:19).
This thought continues in the second line of the verse. The knowledge that God sees everything, is a warning for “the evil” and a comfort to “the good” people. The evil people are both the great sinners and the friendly people who live decently, but none of them allow God into their lives. They are both those who openly sin and those who secretly sin. God wants them to become aware that He sees them, so that they may repent.
The good people are in themselves also sinners, but they do good because they have acknowledged to be sinners. They live from a good relationship with God. That relationship has become good by their confession of sins and their faith in the forgiveness of those sins by God. God is able to grant that forgiveness on the ground of the work of Christ on the cross, which He had accomplished for each penitent sinner. The knowledge that God observes them is an encouragement to live to His honor (2 Chronicles 16:9).
The Soothing Tongue
That the tongue, which means the words that are spoken with the tongue, presented as “soothing”, assumes that the hearer is depressed. Soothing words are gentle, calming, benevolent words. This is fitting to the picture of “a tree of life” which means a source of vitality to others. The tree of life is mentioned here for the fourth time in Proverbs (Proverbs 3:18; Proverbs 11:30Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4).
He, who knows how by his gracious and comforting words to cheer up a person who is in trouble, leads this person to restore, as it were, his connection with the tree of life. His life shines and is meaningful again; it gets something back of the shine of the paradise. The spoken words are words from and about the Lord Jesus and refer to Him. He is the Tree of life.
But words with “perversion in it” have a reverse effect. Those are deceitful words that crush the spirit. Perversion affects the addressed person inwardly and breaks him and makes him languish (Isaiah 65:14). What the friends of Job said was not soothing to Job. In what they said, was perversion, which resulted that the brokenness in Job’s spirit about the suffering that happened to him, remained.
To Reject or Regard Discipline
Only “a fool rejects his father’s discipline”. No one other than a father can instruct a child in a most intrusive and at the same time appropriate way. He knows his child and knows what he needs. He also knows life and where the dangers are hidden. The child that does not care about a loving instruction of his father and even despicably rejects it, is a fool.
In contrast to that is a son who testifies that he “is sensible” when he “regards reproof”. In that way he shows that he realizes that he has to learn a lot more and that he needs correction. He shows to have common sense.
After accepting the fear of the LORD, the acceptance of instruction of one’s parents is of the greatest value. The authority of the father and the parents is the authority of God. Discipline should start at home and is the responsibility of the father or the parents. That’s where our lives begin. Because we are inclined to do the wrong things, we need correction. David was a sensible man. He considered it to be a favor when he got punished (Psalms 141:5).
Great Wealth or Ruin
“The house of the righteous” is characterized by “great wealth”. With wealth is not necessarily meant money and property. It can be especially about spiritual wealth. When love, joy and peace, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), characterizes the house of the righteous, it is a great wealth (Proverbs 15:16). When the inhabitants of a house treat one another with respect for each one’s capacities and qualities, it is also a great wealth.
Of such a great wealth the wicked does not know anything at all. He may have a great income, but in that income is the seed of decline and misery. There is a curse on it, because he thinks only about himself. Pride and lust cause that he cannot enjoy with satisfaction. He is led by jealousy of others who have just a little bit more than he has. There is also the fear that it will be taken away from him. All these factors are in his income and they rob him from the joy of it. Together with his income confusion and sleeplessness enter into his house.
The Lips of the Wise and the Hearts of Fools
Wise men spread knowledge when they speak. Their words are useful and profitable to the listeners. In such a way knowledge is used rightly. Knowledge is not meant to be kept to oneself, or to be shared with only a select group of people. “The lips of the wise” will let all hear the knowledge of God and His will which they have in their hearts. They do not do that to boast in their knowledge, but to make others profit from it. The knowledge that they have, they have received to share.
That knowledge is ‘spread’, also implies the thought of multiplication. Seed that is spread develops into a great harvest. What the lips of the wise spread of knowledge, comes into the hearts of many, who in their turn also spread the received knowledge.
The lips of the Lord Jesus have spread knowledge, so that His hearers would know God and His judgment about them. It is important that we pass on to others what we have learnt from God’s Word about God and Christ and also about ourselves. Then we show that we have ‘lips of the wise’.
In “the hearts of the fools” there is no knowledge. Fools shut their hearts to knowledge. Therefore there is nothing in the hearts of the fools that can be useful to others. Fools have no understanding of knowledge. They do not want it either; they do not open themselves up for it. Therefore they are not able to spread it.
Which Is an Abomination to the LORD
Like everywhere in the Bible, here “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 15:8) because the heart of those who offer it, is unrighteous (1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 1:10-Esther :; Jeremiah 6:20). It is not only unacceptable to God, but He hates it. Cain was such a wicked one who came with a sacrifice which was rejected by God with dismay (Genesis 4:5). Cain brought an offering according to his own will and God was to be satisfied with it. Like that, so-called Christians come with all kinds of offerings to God. Those are the offerings of good works, but God rejects them. We find it in abundance in the roman-catholicism.
What He accepts is “the prayer of the upright”. The prayer is called an ‘offering’ (Psalms 141:2). When the upright do that to Him, it is “His delight”. The upright take their true place before God. In their hearts they stand upright before God. They realize that they only can come near to God on the ground of the offering of Christ and not on the ground of something from themselves. Their prayer is the prayer of faith. They pray in the awareness that they are sinners by nature. The prayer stands against the haughty offering of the self-satisfied people who tell God how well they serve Him (Luke 18:10-2 Chronicles :).
Not only the offering of the wicked, in other words the pure fulfillment of religious obligations, is an abomination to God, but also “the way of the wicked”, in other words his whole life is an abomination (Proverbs 15:9). In the same way the prayer of the upright is not only His delight, but the entire life of those “who pursue righteousness”, is His delight. He “loves the ones” who do that. To pursue righteousness is to give the other person what he is entitled to and above all to give to God what He is entitled to. It is an active, perseverant and even dangerous search to righteousness (1 Timothy 6:11). Only one who has new life is able to do that.
Proverbs 15:10 connects to Proverbs 15:9, the way of the wicked, for the wicked is someone who “forsakes the way” which God wants man to go. The way is here the way of righteousness, like it is emphasized in the whole book. He who forsakes that way, has to be punished. It is not pleasant, but very necessary. He who does not listen to the instruction of his parents or someone else, shows that he hates reproof. That will lead to death (cf. 2 Chronicles 25:16; 2 Peter 2:15; 2 Peter 2:21; Romans 8:13).
Sheol and Abaddon Lie Open Before the LORD
The development of the train of thought in these two lines of the verse is an argument of the less to the more (“how much more”). “Sheol” and “Abaddon” represent the isolated underworld and all the mighty powers that reside there, but they are powerless there (Job 26:6; Psalms 139:8; Amos 9:2; Revelation 9:11). This territory lies completely outside the perception of men, but is not a secret to God at all. That this isolated territory with its inhabitants lies open to Him, implies that He is omniscient. That also means that He certainly knows “the hearts of men”.
The word “hearts” means the motives and thoughts (Psalms 44:21). The eyes of the LORD not only see all individuals and their deeds (Proverbs 15:3), but He also sees their hearts and everything in it. Nobody knows his own heart, let alone the heart of another person, but God knows every heart (Jeremiah 17:10; John 2:25; Hebrews 4:12-1 Chronicles :). He knows every intention of each individual.
A Scoffer Does Not Go to the Wise
A scoffer resists every attempt to reform him. He does not love reproof or discipline and therefore he does not love “one who reproves him”. He stiffly holds on to his own senseless opinions which he spreads around him with great pleasure. His goal is to scoff others and especially God and His service. That’s what his life consists of. He loves pleasure and scoffing too much to forsake them.
He will not go to the wise to become wise, which proves that a scoffer is a fool. He does not even want to be in the company of the wise. Imagine that he would accept something of their wisdom. He cannot imagine his life without scoffing. Scoffers are people who do not want to come to the light, because they do not want to be exposed (John 3:19-Proverbs :). The own ‘I’ is their god and goal, and scoffing is their life, which is why they reject all the wisdom from above despicably.
A Joyful, Wise and Cheerful Heart
The emotional condition of a person, what he experiences in his soul, has a clear effect on his spirit. If somebody has “a joyful heart”, it is seen on his face (Proverbs 15:13). Someone who is on his way to meet his beloved, will have a joyful heart. The joy of that meeting will radiate from his face. Such it is with a heart that is filled with the Lord Jesus and lives with Him. There is joy about the redemption of sins and the judgment over it and about the coming meeting with Him.
When the heart is filled with worry, it makes the “spirit broken”. The words that are used here, emphasize the pain and depression with a thought of despair. A broken spirit shows a sad facial expression. Nehemiah had “a sad heart”, which was seen from his face (Nehemiah 2:2; Genesis 40:6-Judges :). With Hannah her face changed from broken into cheerful after she had received the assurance that her prayer about a son would be answered: “So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” (1 Samuel 1:18). In this way we can also bring our worries, which cause us to have a broken spirit, in prayer to the Lord. That gives a change for our benefit in our mood.
Here also it applies that this is in general speaking, without the guarantee that this happens always and directly. There can be situations that one is depressive and remains like that (for a long time), although he brings everything to the Lord. That can have several causes, which we do not always understand. That is the case when it happens to ourselves and certainly when it happens to others. Job does not have a joyful heart and a cheerful face for a long time. Only when God fulfilled His goal with him, he experienced a complete change (Job 42:1-Esther :).
The opposite of “the mind of the intelligent” is “the mouth of the fools”, the opposite of “seeks” is “feeds” and the opposite of “knowledge” is “folly” (Proverbs 15:14). Both the intelligent and the fool seek to fill their mind with something. He who is intelligent of mind, longs for knowledge. He who has knowledge, longs for more knowledge. It is about knowledge on how life should be lived according to the thoughts of God. When a heart is looking for that, it indicates wisdom.
In the heart of fools there is no desire for knowledge. He actually seeks ‘to eat’ something. Therefore there is mention about “the mouth of the fools” and about feeding. ‘Feeding’ is grazing like cattle do, which indicates the satisfaction of the fool with food of the brand ‘folly’ (cf. Isaiah 44:20).
What one is looking for, appears from, among other things, what he reads and what he watches. An intelligent mind “has tasted the kindness of the Lord” (1 Peter 2:3) and therefore longs for “the pure milk” of the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2). The fools feed their mind with perverted reading matters and they watch bad movies. They graze like the stupid cattle in defiled meadows and eat without any filtering from the folly of these meadows.
Life can be miserable or pleasant, dependent on one’s circumstances and nature (Proverbs 15:15). “The afflicted” is one who inwardly feels terrible all days. All of those days “are bad”. He cannot find pleasure in anything at all, for inside he feels terrible. Whatever people try to brighten him up, the affliction dominates in such a way that he only sees affliction. Everything is bad. Nothing tastes nice, nothing makes him happy. He continually feels bad.
There is misery when we do not succeed to find our help in God. Jacob said to Pharaoh: “Few and unpleasant have been the years of my life” (Genesis 47:9). That is because his life was marked by going his own ways, without asking God to help him. Naomi has also, together with her husband Elimelech, gone her own way. She testifies of it that she has experienced “great bitterness” because of that (Ruth 1:20-Ecclesiastes :).
He who has “a cheerful heart” sees and has the life in the light of the sun, which means in the light of the Lord Jesus, Who is called “the Sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2). Life is a continual celebration meal for a cheerful heart. We have a cheerful heart when we are glad in the Lord and live in fellowship with Him. Even bad days will not affect the cheerful mood. When there is joy from the inside, outward circumstances can in no way take that joy away.
The prophet Habakkuk testifies of that. Although he sees a cheerless barrenness and emptiness, he testifies and says: “Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:18). The Lord Jesus offers us a continual meal in Himself (John 6:35). He wants to dine with us and we are allowed to dine with Him when we open our hearts to Him (Revelation 3:20).
Better … Than …
The Proverbs 15:16; Proverbs 15:17 clearly belong together. They say that spiritual things are better than material things or material wealth (cf. Psalms 37:16). Proverbs 15:16 is about money and the fear of the LORD, Proverbs 15:17 is about food and love.
Proverbs 15:16 says that fear or respect to God brings more satisfaction than “a great treasure and turmoil with it”. Turmoil expresses itself in restlessness, panic, commotion. Turmoil is fear. There is a saying that says: The more possessions, the more fear. The respect for God has no such fear, for it brings satisfaction and rest, which is the opposite of turmoil.
Solomon makes clear that the righteous will not allow himself to be controlled by prosperity. You may have much money, the most expensive car, the quickest computer, the largest television set with the sharpest picture, a house that has everything and still have no rest (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:6; Ecclesiastes 5:12). That rest is only found in the respectfully walking with God.
Proverbs 15:17 says that a happy, loving relationship is better than a delicious meal whereby the hearts of those who share the meal are filled with hatred towards one another. This is the situation in a family where wealth replaces love. There can certainly be a rich meal with love, but here we have a situation in which a choice should be made between a luxurious meal with hatred on the one hand and a poor meal with love on the other hand.
Many people admit that a house with cheap furniture in which the people love one another, is preferable to a luxuriously decorated house in which people hate one another. Love makes difficult situations bearable, while hatred destroys all the joy which a good meal is intended to for. You can have food of the highest quality in abundance on the table and still not have the “continual feast” of Proverbs 15:15. Instead you feel miserable every day and your heart is consumed by fear, restlessness, hatred and bitterness. The leaven of hatred is the cause that one cannot really enjoy the meal.
Even if someone is not known as a rich person and he has to do with very modest meals, he still can have a continual feast. That is true, if he knows values and enjoys his spiritual wealth. That makes the heart really and continually joyful. There is rest and satisfaction, the opposite of turmoil and restlessness.
We can also apply these verses to a local church. When there is “a great treasure” of knowledge, the chance for turmoil is also great when people boast in it. That was the case in Corinth, where the believers were rich in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:4-Judges :). That actually did not make them humble and grateful, but arrogant, while love was missing (1 Corinthians 8:1). Because the Corinthians were boasting about their knowledge, there was disagreement and confusion and all kinds of malpractices (1 Corinthians 1:10-2 Kings :; 1 Corinthians 14:331 Corinthians 11:17-Song of Solomon :). Opposite to that, is what the Lord Jesus says about the church of Philadelphia (which means ‘brotherly love’) that it has only “a little power”. He honors and encourages them (Revelation 3:7-1 Chronicles :).
Hot-Tempered or Slow to Anger
The contrast is between “a hot-tempered man”, which literally means ‘a man of anger’, someone who is quick-tempered, and a man who is “slow to anger”, like James also calls it (James 1:19). Hot-temperance is expressed by certain circumstances. Someone who is hot-tempered, is proud by nature, for otherwise he would not get excited so quick about something that concerns him. Hot-temperance causes disagreement. A hot-tempered man has to have and insists to have his right, even if he has to go to court.
He who is slow to anger, does not demand his rights and knows how to resolve differences by not responding with agitation. By his calm response he silences the “dispute” that is aroused. It demands much patience and calmness to maintain or restore peaceful relationships. It takes two persons to cause a dispute. If one of them keeps his patience, the dispute will be silenced. The one who is slow to anger is a peace maker. To make peace begins in the heart that bows to God in Christ. That will characterize the spirit and the conduct. Abram showed this spirit when there was a dispute between the shepherds of his cattle and the shepherds of Lot’s cattle (Genesis 13:7-1 Samuel :).
The Way of the Lazy and the Path of the Upright
The lazy sees his “way”, which is his life, “as a hedge of thorns”, through which he feels to be hindered to go to work. His life, according to him, is full of difficulties, dangers and painful experiences. He seeks and finds in everything that happens to him in life an excuse for not being obligated to work. The hedge of thorns which he sees, is stopping him, as he thinks and as he wants others to believe. Because the lazy in the second line of the verse is in contrast to the upright and not to the diligent, it shows that laziness is a proof of unrighteousness.
The upright do not deal with hedges of thorns. Their “path … is a highway”. It is a well paved path, a path that is good. They go on “a highway …, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness” (Isaiah 35:8). They have no reason to divert or move away. That actually does not mean that the path of the upright is smooth and that they have an easy life.
Both the lazy and the upright are on a path where they meet difficulties and troubles. The difference is the way they deal with the difficulties and troubles. The lazy sees lions and bears in the difficulties, a hedge of thorns, on his way; the upright also see their difficulties, but see further than that, up to God and go their way in trusting Him, because they know that He has brought them on that path. They trust in His grace.
The Influence of Wisdom and Folly
When a son (or a daughter) behaves wisely as a response to the strongly protecting love of his father and the warm affection of his mother, he (or she) will cause joy to them (Proverbs 15:20). However, if a son (or a daughter) behaves foolishly, it means they despise the parental investment of care. It is a declaration to the mother that she has done him or her wrong by bringing him or her into the world.
Wise children cause the parents to be glad about them. Foolish children show despise towards their mother. They show an unnatural harshness which causes great sorrow to their mother. The greatest joy and the bitterest sorrow in this world of tears are found in the heart of parents. There is no greater joy than to see that children walk in the truth (3 John 1:4). There is no greater sorrow than to see a child that rejects the truth and who lives and dies in unbelief (2 Samuel 18:33).
The fool does not only live without God in his sins, but has delight in folly (Proverbs 15:21). That marks him as a person “who lacks sense”. Everyone who has delight in expressing or seeing folly, lacks sense. He goes a foolish way which ends up in eternal death. He who has sense or “understanding”, “walks straight”, which is the way of life that leads into eternal life.
The fool follows every fad and lives by the everyday humdrum. Such a life is pleasing to him, for he has no understanding in God’s will, which he does not want either. Someone with understanding knows what God’s will is for him and therefore goes the right way, the way which God has outlined. He knows “that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
Many Counselors Make a Plan Succeed
It is not God’s intention for us to do everything on our own. He has created man as a social being, who needs others to function well. Also in the church He has made the members interdependent on one another (1 Corinthians 12:14-Ecclesiastes :). Self-will is always damaging. The plans of one who works alone without consultation with others, often do not succeed. The success of plans demands making inquiries and accepting good advice.
To carry out a plan without consultation also proves of hastiness. Time is needed for consultation. Consultation may be seen as wasting time, but it is not. Besides, two people see more than one person. It is good to see one’s own limitations, how much gifted one can be. Consultation with faithful and skilled people is decisive for a good result, for establishing a plan.
This is a general observation which is valuable in society, both on personal and on national level. It means that we need others. That also goes for the matters that happen in a church. In the consultation whether to keep or not to keep the law by the Gentiles in Acts 15, we have a good example of consultation for the establishment of what is necessary. The outcome is good, because the people listen to the Scripture and the Holy Spirit (Psalms 119:24). With all consultation it is important above all to look up to Him Who is “the Counselor” is (Isaiah 9:6).
How Delightful Is a Timely Word
Here we have an answer without reading about any question. The question that we are dealing with here and what the answer refers to, may regard everything. It can be an oral question, the request for advice, but also a situation which one cannot handle. The second line of the verse makes it clear that it is not about a direct and a formally right answer. It is about an answer that deals with the details on the question, but which is also given at the right time, not later and not sooner than that.
The joy that such an answer gives, is therefore not so much the result of its correctness, but the right timing of it. We speak wisely when we speak at the right time, when at that very time there is a need of the things we say. “For a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure” (Ecclesiastes 8:5). To say the right things at the right time gives a deep satisfaction; it demands knowledge and wisdom and self-denial. To say the right thing, but at the wrong moment, can be counterproductive, which means that it leads to the opposite of what one seeks.
If Paul had told the prison guard that he had to believe in the Lord Jesus before he threw him in prison, Paul would have been right, but with no result. It was not the right time for the right word then. That right time came when the prison guard was about to kill himself (Acts 16:27-Jonah :). We can learn this way of speaking from the Lord Jesus only (Isaiah 50:4).
The Path of Life Leads Upward
“The wise” sees life in the right perspective. He knows that he is on the path of life and that this path also leads to life. It is the path “upward”; it leads to eternal life, to heaven, where eternal life is enjoyed in its fullness. The Christian who is wise, will seek the things that are above, that are upward, for there is Christ, his life (Colossians 3:1-Exodus :). He fixes his eyes on “Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
The wise walks on that path because he wants to stay away “from Sheol below” as far as he possibly could. It is not so much because there would be a chance that he could end up in hell. Through the blood of Christ he knows that he has escaped from the judgment of hell and that he will not end up there. The point is that he now goes the path of life and in that way also takes a distance of matters that belong to ‘the hell below’. He is born from above and goes the way upward. He belongs to heaven and not to hell. That appears from the focus of his life.
The LORD Protects the Widow
The LORD tears down the “proud” and their houses, but He protects the vulnerable “widow”. The contrast is between the proud and the widow; between those who fully trust in themselves and someone who is powerless, who has no one else but God (Psalms 68:5). The Scripture sufficiently confirms that God defends the case of the widow, the orphan, the poor and the needy.
The contrast assumes that the widow is the prey of the proud people, who want to take her land and house (Isaiah 5:8-2 Samuel :). God has established the borders of His people in the land and will maintain them (Deuteronomy 19:14). Those who do not consider that – the proud – He tears down, including their whole ‘empire’ in which they trust and of which they think that it is established forever. Only what has been established by God, such as the boundary of the widow, has been unshakably established.
Evil Plans or Pleasant Words
God not only hates the sacrifice and the way of the wicked (Proverbs 15:8-1 Samuel :), but also their “plans” and thoughts. A wicked person is also a deviser if “evil plans”. The plans that he makes have the purpose to do others evil, to harm and damage them. There is no thought of God with him. It is all about him. The LORD knows his heart. His evil plans are “an abomination” to Him.
The contrast in the second line of the verse is that between hidden plans or thoughts are “pleasant words”. Pleasant words do not have to be hidden, but can be spoken. They cannot but come from a heart which is pure because it is focused on God. Those words do not reflect evil plans; they are not impure, but “pure”.
David is the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1). The words that he has spoken, are pure words because they are spoken by him through the Spirit of God (2 Samuel 23:2). When we speak through the Spirit of God, our words are pleasant and pure.
Warning Against Illicit Profit
“To profit illicitly” leads to dishonest practices, like the use of “bribes” and kickbacks, which distort justice (Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; Job 8:3; Matthew 28:11-Ezra :; Exodus 18:21; 1 Samuel 8:3; Isaiah 33:15; 1 Peter 5:2). The greedy man is the one who hurries to become rich and does not worry about how it happens. He not only troubles himself, but drags others with him. He troubles his whole house, wife and children.
The verse is a warning against accepting bribes. Gifts can be harmless, but they can also change one’s norms and values, which means lower them. He who hates gifts which are meant as bribes, “will live” and keeps his family from troubles. Illicit profit is slavery. Whoever hates illicit profit, will now already experience the real life and he will soon do that perfectly. It is living in the freedom of the Spirit.
Think First, Then Answer
“The righteous” is not a blabbermouth. He “ponders” in his heart how he shall answer when he is asked a question or when something of God happens to him (Habakkuk 2:1). Pondering is weighing or observing. He who is wise, is careful with his words. For a good answer we need Divine wisdom, for we are surrounded by a wicked world. Therefore we are to consider what and how we should answer.
The wicked are not led by the fear of God. Therefore a flow of evil comes out of their mouths. They cause evil with what comes out of their mouth. Their mouth overflows from it. Their mouth is not to be stopped from being a source of torment to others. They produce evil things from the evil treasure of their hearts (Matthew 12:34-Habakkuk :).
The LORD Answers the Prayer of the Righteous
The wicked people keep the LORD at a distance. Therefore He is far from them. When they need Him because they think that He can serve them, He appears inaccessible for them and deaf to their calling to Him. His mercy, love and help are not available to them because they refuse to break with their sins. Of course, a prayer of repentance of the wicked is the exception, for that’s how they become righteous. When they pray as righteous people, He answers them (James 5:16-Job :; Psalms 34:16; Psalms 34:18; 1 Peter 3:12).
What Gladdens the Heart and Puts Fat on the Bones
“Bright eyes” are caused by the sun. Light is from heaven, from God. When that light comes in the eyes, when the eyes see that, it gladdens the heart (cf. Ecclesiastes 11:7). Through the light of God in our eyes, we can see everything that God has done and praise Him for it. That goes for both the old creation and the new creation, for both the material world and the spiritual world. When “the eyes of our hearts are enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18), it means that we are able to know what spiritual blessings we have received from God.
“Good news” regards something good that our ears hear. That has an effect on our bones. It feels like fat on them, by which they are strengthened. We see that with Jacob when he hears that Joseph is still alive. His spirit revives and he goes to him (Genesis 45:27-Hosea :). We receive power for our walk when we hear about the good of God’s intention when He disciplines us (Hebrews 12:11-1 Chronicles :). Ten out of the twelve spies spread bad news about the promised land and in that way paralyzed the people, which caused them to refuse to move on.
To Listen and to Fear Is Life, Wisdom and Honor
A “reproof” may be painful, but he who has an ear to listen to it, will therefore live according to the wisdom of God (Proverbs 15:31). A person who is eager to learn, belongs to the wise, for he who “listens to the life-giving reproof”, shows himself to be wise. The wise will live to the honor of God. Reproof serves to remove out of one’s life all things that hinder it. Whoever has an open ear for that, “will dwell among the wise”, which means that he will find rest among the wise. He is one of them.
“He who neglects discipline”, which goes further than refusing to listen to reproof, “despises himself” (Proverbs 15:32). He thinks that nobody should meddle with his life. He wants to live as he himself thinks it’s best. He forgets that by such an attitude he despises himself. The reproof is intended to let him live the real life, which means how God has meant it. That gives full satisfaction to life.
Whoever “listens to reproof acquires understanding”; he receives understanding about himself and about life. Then one can grow spiritually, intellectually and emotionally. He will know how he should live to God’s honor. For his neighbor he will not seek the evil, but the good, and will know what God asks of him.
Whoever lets himself to be led by “the fear of the LORD”, is continuously instructed, in the sense of taught, in order to go wisely through life (Proverbs 15:33), for “the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD” (Proverbs 9:10). He knows how to make the good choice when there is a choice to be made and in that way also to avoid the evil. His life is adapted to doing the will of God.
The first effect of wisdom is that it works “humility” in the righteous. Fearing God goes together with humility. Where the one is, there the other will also be. The one is the way to wisdom; the other is the way to honor. Humility is a mind of the heart which we have to learn. We can learn humility from Him Who is Wisdom. He has said: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
Humble submission in trusting the LORD, brings “wisdom” and “honor”. The Lord Jesus has humbled Himself and was exalted by God. He is the example of what He says to us: “He who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Our exaltation, the honor that we shall receive, depends on our humiliation. If we humble ourselves “under the mighty hand of God”, He will exalt us “at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 15". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
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